[On Sept. 12, Gadhafi forces killed 17 security guards outside an oil
refinery taken over by the rebels. Gadhafi operatives were said to have
fired automatic weapons and hurled grenades in an effort to destroy the
refinery, located 20 kilometers from Ras Lanouf.]
The sources said the National Transitional Council (NTC) has underestimated
Gadhafi's current military strength by up to 10-fold. They said NTC, which
captured Tripoli without a fight, assessed that Gadhafi had only
several hundred fighters while actually he controlled several thousand.
NTC has acknowledged underestimating Gadhafi's forces. NTC said
Gadhafi deployed at least 1,000 fighters in the southern town of Bani
Walid, at sharp variance from an earlier assessment of between 100 and 150
troops. As a result, rebel forces, despite NATO air strikes, were forced to
withdraw from Bani Walid on Sept. 10.
The sources said Gadhafi has maintained the loyalty of both foreign
mercenaries as well as tribal members. They said the colonel appeared to
have sufficient finances and weapons to keep fighting while the rebels
continued to be divided.
"When our forces entered Bani Walid they found the brigades of Gadhafi
using citizens as shields," NTC military spokesman Ahmed Bani said.
The sources said the rebels also remain divided and have been infiltrated by
Gadhafi loyalists. They said military commanders have often refused to
cooperate in the field or even share information.
"There are intensive efforts by NATO to get these [rebels] people
together to finally end this thing," the Western source said. "But it is
very difficult and each success intensifies the rivalry between them."