Libyan government forces have captured Moammar Gadhafi's ex-spokesman outside a besieged town, the prime minister's office said Saturday, Oct 20, as Libyans marked the anniversary of the ousted dictator's death, The Associated Press reported.
The urbane, English-speaking Moussa Ibrahim, who became the international face of the regime in its final months, was captured as he was trying to flee Bani Walid, according to the Libyan State News Agency. The town has been the site of fierce fighting between pro-government forces and fighters holed up in the longtime Gadhafi stronghold.
Violence has flared periodically over the last year in Bani Walid, the most significant town in Libya still resisting the country's new authorities since the end of the country's civil war last year.
Ibrahim was the most well-known former regime figure to remain unaccounted for after Gadhafi was captured and killed by rebels as his hometown of Sirte was falling on Oct 20, 2011, following an eight-month civil war.
"He is now being transported to Tripoli so that the investigation by relevant authorities can begin," the statement from the prime minister's office said.
The statement added that he was captured at one of the checkpoints outside Bani Walid, where fighting has raged for the past four days as government forces seek to retake the town.
A Facebook page purporting to belong to Ibrahim denied the capture, saying it was an effort to divert attention away from the "atrocities" being committed by the Libyan forces besieging Bani Walid. The site and statement could not be independently confirmed.
Fighters of the pro-government Libya Shield militia have besieged the town, some 140 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of Tripoli, for the past several weeks, blaming residents for the death of a well-known anti-Gadhafi rebel. On Wednesday, they attacked the town with mortar and artillery, then launched a ground assault after saying that negotiations to hand over the suspects in the killing had failed.
Residents in Bani Walid say the pro-government forces, which are comprised largely of the militias that overthrew Gadhafi a year, are indiscriminately shelling the town.