Libya Uprising
Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi. REUTERS

Muammar Gaddafi is still on the run despite being hunted down by the National Transitional Council and NATO forces. Taking over from Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, the colonel is now the most wanted man on the planet.

Despite rumours that had him en route to South Africa or Algeria, then in Niger, heading to Burkina Faso, Gaddafi is still in Libya, or so he says.

Calling for his people to rise up against the enemy, the colonel insists the rebels have won a battle but not the war. Talking on Syrian TV and urging his supporters to take up arms against the rebels, Gaddafi pretended to be oblivious of the fact that his support in Libya is dwindling.

"To all my beloved Libyans, the Libyan land is yours and you need to defend it against all those traitors, the dogs, those that have been in Libya and are trying to take over the land," Gaddafi said in an audio message broadcast early Thursday on Syrian-based Al-Rai TV.

He denied being in Niger and described the reports as "psychological war lies."

"How many times do convoys transporting smugglers, traders and people cross the border every day for Sudan, Chad, Mali and Algeria?" Gaddafi said. "As if this was the first time a convoy was headed towards Niger."

On Monday, reports from French sources indicated that a convoy of more than 200 armoured vehicles had crossed the desert into Niger, possibly carrying Gaddafi, his son and his close aides, with many saying the colonel could be heading to Burkina Faso, which had offered him asylum.

Rebel sources said Wednesday they had located Gaddafi and surrounded him in Libya, but the former leader proved he is still safe and in hiding by contacting Syrian TV, no doubt annoying the NTC.

With Gaddafi still on the run and vowing to continue the fight, the NTC is still struggling to assert its authority over the country. Analysts have dismissed claims that tribal leaders are opposing the NTC out of loyalty to Gaddafi. But advantages certain tribes shared under the Gaddafi regime are now at risk, so leaders will try to ensure they negotiate access to the new political and institutional apparatus.

As tensions between tribal leaders and the NTC forces increase, violent clashes have erupted on the outskirts of the city of Bani Walid, where Gaddafi supporters have also rallied.

"The remnants of the Gaddafi battalions launched late Wednesday an attack on the revolutionary troops from inside the town, but the revolutionaries repulsed the attack and killed one of them," Daw al-Salheen, a rebel military commander, said Thursday.

Daw al-Salheen also told broadcaster Al Jazeera that the NTC forces were committed to a deadline given by the council to pro-Gaddafi towns to surrender by Friday or face attack, as negotiations between the NTC and the tribal leaders have stalled.

"The fighting does not mean an end to negotiations because the revolutionaries fought this battle in self- defence," al-Salheen added.

The next few weeks will be crucial for the NTC as it rapidly needs to develop its ability to control the country and assert its authority as the new legitimate government, but with the Gaddafi riddle still unsolved, asserting the transitional government's authority will be a struggle.