Rebel reinforcements arrived outside one of Moammar Gadhafi's last strongholds in Bani Walid today, even as the forces arrayed against the toppled dictator gave the town a chance to surrender and avoid a fight. "We won't go inside Bani Walid unless the Warfala tribe invites us," says a rebel commander, referring to Bani Walid's main tribe. "We don't want to use our weapons. But if the Gadhafi loyalists shoot at us, of course we will return fire."
The rebels have extended to Saturday a deadline for the surrender of Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte and other loyalist areas, but have warned they could attack Bani Walid sooner because many prominent regime officials were believed to be inside. Earlier, another rebel commander had offered during the negotiations that those "who killed in the name of Gadhafi, whose hands are stained in blood" be placed under house arrest in Bani Walid until a government is formed that can try them. NATO, meanwhile, reported bombing several targets near Sirte and other areas overnight. NATO's mandate, which permits it to bomb inside Libya, expires Sept. 27, and the rebels may be eager to end the fight before it runs out.