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More troops surround Gaddafi's town

Rebel reinforcements have converged on one of Muammar Gaddafi's last strongholds in Libya, even as they gave the town a last chance to surrender.

Thousands of rebels have now reached on Bani Walid, a desert town 90 miles from Tripoli.

They have extended to Saturday a deadline for the surrender of Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte and other loyalist areas, but some have warned they could attack Bani Walid sooner because many prominent former regime officials were believed to be inside.

Commander Ismail al-Gitani said: "We won't go inside Bani Walid unless the Warfala tribe invites us," he said, referring to Bani Walid's main tribe. "The Warfala have to lead us into Bani Walid. Hopefully no one will be shot. We don't want to use our weapons. But if the Gaddafi loyalists shoot at us, of course we will return fire."

The Warfala are believed to be about a million-strong, one-sixth of Libya's population.

Rebel commanders have said the door was still open for more talks about a surrender, but rebel negotiator Abdullah Kanshil said that "there are no negotiations." He added that rebels were talking to individual families in the town about urgent needs for water and food.

The talks broke down, in part, because the loyalists insisted the rebels disarm before entering the town.

The rebels have said the hard-core loyalists are a small minority inside the town, but are heavily armed and stoking fear to keep other residents from surrendering, telling residents the rebels will rape their wives and daughters.

The regime loyalists "know if they hand themselves in, they will be punished. They are trying hard to mess things up, to drag other people with them into a battle," said rebel Col. Abdullah Hussein Salem

The rebels also say Gaddafi has some genuine supporters in Bani Walid, mainly people linked to the dictator through an elaborate patronage system that helped keep him in power for nearly 42 years.

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