WADI DINAR, Libya — Moammar Gadhafi's loyalists fired at least 10 rockets from inside one of his last strongholds Thursday, hours after the ousted Libyan leader urged his fighters to crush opponents.
Former rebels have massed outside the desert town of Bani Walid for days waiting for orders to take the town, but the rocket fire marked an escalation in the standoff, which could reach a climax when a deadline for surrender runs out this weekend.
Though they overran the capital last month, drove Gadhafi into hiding and run a leadership council that is the closest thing to a Libyan government, the fighters cannot claim victory until the remaining handful of loyalist strongholds are under their control and — most important — Gadhafi is captured.
Determined to hunt down Gadhafi, Libya's new rulers say they have dedicated a special unit of fighters to track the elusive former leader, listening in on his aides' phone calls, poring over satellite images and interviewing witnesses.
Gadhafi, who hasn't been seen in public for months, went underground after anti-regime fighters swept into Tripoli on Aug. 21. Capturing the ousted ruler would allow the former rebels to seal their grip on the country and shut the door on the possibility of Gadhafi's inspiring an insurgency against the new leaders.
KEEPING ARMS SAFE: The United States is working with Libya's transitional government to keep terrorists from obtaining weapons or taking other advantage of the rebellion against Moammar Gadhafi, John Brennan, President Barack Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, said Thursday.