Libya's interim government strengthens grip, says Khamis Qaddafi may be dead

Khamis Qaddafi, son of former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and commander of a brutal military brigade, may have been killed Saturday, the military spokesman for the interim Libyan government said.

The claim was impossible to confirm and Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) has incorrectly reported the death or capture of Khamis and other Qaddafi sons in the recent past. While the situation around Tripoli is more stable than it was even 24 hours ago, there is still enough chaos to feed false reports. Anti-Qaddafi guerrillas in Tripoli have incorrectly said they had the former dictator surrounded on at least three separate occasions in recent days, and Khamis was falsely reported killed at the end of last week.

What's more certain is steady progress for the forces of Libya's interim government, who were recognized as Libya's new leaders when the pre-Qaddafi Libyan flag adopted by the revolution was hoisted at the Arab League in Cairo Saturday.

PHOTO GALLERY: Qaddafi through the years

The interim government's forces made progress on several fronts over the weekend, capturing Bin Jawad near Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte and taking control of a border crossing with Tunisia. Reporters in Tripoli say the capital is now firmly in the interim government's hands, though major cleanup and reconstruction efforts are needed, with power shortages, major damage to sewage lines, and hundreds of wounded in need of medical assistance.

Military spokesman Col. Ahmed Bani told a press conference in Benghazi that forces in Tarhouna, about 50 miles south of Tripoli, fired on a convoy of armored cars Saturday after it ignored an order to stop. Two of the cars caught on fire and the occupants of those vehicles were burned beyond recognition. “From prisoners taken from this convoy it appears they were the guards of Khamis,” said Colonel Bani. Tarhouna lies on the road from Tripoli to Sabha in the south, which is still under the control of Qaddafi’s forces.

Bani also said opposition forces yesterday took control of Bin Jawad, that last major town on the coast road running west before Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte. Qaddafi's fighters have been making a steady retreat west toward Sirte for nearly a week since Tripoli fell.

Opposition leaders say that rather than attack Sirte, they are negotiating with residents and tribal leaders to persuade them to lay down their arms and avoid a bloody battle for the city.

Former dictator Qaddafi's whereabouts remain unknown. His spokesman Moussa Ibrahim called the Associated Press' New York office overnight and said that his boss would like to appoint son Saadi Qaddafi to negotiate a power sharing interim arrangement with the NTC. Saadi, a retired footballer known in Libya for a playboy lifestyle, is as unpopular with Libya's new leaders as his father, and NTC officials in Benghazi said there will be no negotiations with the family.

PHOTO GALLERY: Qaddafi through the years

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