Fugitive Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi is quickly losing fighters, with many of his new recruits simply handing over their weapons to his foes, a military commander of the new leadership said today.
"Gaddafi is recruiting young men as volunteers but these young men are handing over their weapons to the revolutionaries," said Abdelhakim Belhaj, head of the Tripoli military council.
He claimed that forces loyal to the National Transitional Council control "90 percent" of Libya and that even in areas still held by pro-Gaddafi forces the majority of the population is with the revolution at heart.
Gaddafi forces, numbering no more than "a couple of thousand, still hold Sirte, on the coast, and Sabha in the south, Belhaj said. There are also a "few" loyalist fighters in Bani Walid, southeast of the capital, and the outskirts of Zuwarah, west of Tripoli.
"They are not a big force and they are demotivated," he added.
Even some members of Gaddafi 's tribes, Belhaj said, have made contact with rebel forces well ahead of a deadline to surrender which expires Saturday.
"They said they will side with the Libyan people," the commander said.
A civilian group, he added, ventured on Thursday to the southern oasis town of Bani Walid, the Gaddafi stronghold closest to the capital.
They found many of the checkpoints of the city undefended with most guards abandoning their posts in what Belhaj described as a "surprising move."
"We can now say that Bani Walid is open," he said.
Some 600 men aboard 200 combat vehicles moved to within 20 kilometres (12 miles) of Bani Walid without meeting any opposition today, but returned to their base in Misrata, fighters said.