The general commanding Nato’s mission in Libya said today that isolated groups of forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi continue to be a threat to local people but are unable to co-ordinate their actions.
Canadian Lt Gen Charles Bouchard told reporters that many Gaddafi forces are surrounded with no way out.
On Wednesday, Nato’s decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, granted approval to extend the mission for another 90 days.
Without an extension, permission for the operation would have expired on September 27.
“We are now at a point where I can only urge regime forces to surrender, to bring an end to these activities,” Lt Gen Bouchard said.
Despite their isolation, the general said, forces loyal to Gaddafi “are still dangerous ... and violence against the population continues”.
He said that the Nato mission “is not over by any means”. Gaddafi remains at large and the General said he had no idea where he was hiding.
His supporters remain well-armed and fighting is still raging on three fronts in Gaddafi’s base in Sirte, the desert town of Bani Walid and the southern area of Sabha.
Government forces this week have made inroads against Gaddafi loyalists in Sabha, the last major city on a key road leading south to the border with Niger.
“Well, I don’t think there are too many places left in Libya for regime forces to go,” Lt Gen Bouchard said.
“The (Gaddafi) forces are no longer capable of co-ordinated action anywhere in the country ... What we are now witnessing is tactical, very localised action.”
That is a reason for Nato to stay and protect the local population, he said.
Libya’s new rulers insist the fighters in Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte, Bani Walid and Sabha are die-hard supporters, including many who escaped Tripoli, and believe they have no choice but to resist or face war-crimes charges.