Rebels may have an idea of Qaddafi's location

In this image made from Libyan TV, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi holds a meeting with tribal leaders from eastern Libya, in Tripoli, Libya, May 11, 2011. AP Photo / Libyan TV via APTN

TRIPOLI, Libya - Libyan rebels believe they have an idea of where Muammar Qaddafi is.

The rebels are hunting for Qaddafi amid fears that he can continue to stoke violence even after being forced to flee the Libyan capital, Tripoli, last week.

Ali Tarhouni, a minister in the rebel Transitional National Council, had originally told reporters Tuesday that "we have a good idea where he is. We don't have any doubt that we will catch him." However, that earlier statement has since been toned down.

Nothing was elaborated further.

Libyan rebels also pledged Tuesday to launch an assault within days on Qaddafi's hometown, the ousted strongman's last major bastion of support.

The rebels and NATO said that Qaddafi loyalists were negotiating the fate of Sirte, a heavily militarized city some 250 miles east of the capital, Tripoli.

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Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of the Transitional National Council, said that negotiations with forces in Sirte would end Saturday after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, when the rebels would "act decisively and militarily."

We can't wait more than that," he told reporters in the eastern city of Benghazi. "We seek and support any efforts to enter these places peacefully. At the end, it might be decided militarily. I hope it will not be the case."

Col. Roland Lavoie, a NATO spokesman, said it's possible Sirte might surrender without a fight.

"We have seen dialogues in several villages that were freed — I'm not saying with no hostilities, but with minimal hostilities," he said.

Lavoie said NATO would continue its mission as long as civilians in the country are under threat, although the area around the capital, Tripoli, is now "essentially free."

Lavoie appeared to struggle to explain how NATO strikes were protecting civilians at this stage in the conflict. Asked about NATO's assertion that it hit 22 armed vehicles near Sirte on Monday, he was unable to say how the vehicles were threatening civilians, or whether they were in motion or parked.

The rebels also demanded that Algeria return Qaddafi's wife and three of his children for trial after they fled, raising tensions between the neighboring countries.

Safiya Qaddafi, her daughter Aisha and sons Hannibal and Mohammed entered Algeria on Monday, while Qaddafi and several other sons remain at large. In Washington, the Obama administration said it had no indication that Qaddafi himself has left the country.

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