TRIPOLI, Libya -- The chief of Libya's former rebels arrived in Tripoli Saturday, greeted by a boisterous red carpet ceremony meant to show he's taking charge of the interim government replacing the ousted regime of Moammar Gadhafi.
But even as Libya's new leaders tried to consolidate control over the vast country, Gadhafi loyalists pushed back hard against an assault on the town of Bani Walid, one of Gadhafi's remaining strongholds, in a sign that the battle is far from over.
Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the anti-Gadhafi forces' National Transitional Council, landed Saturday at an air force base on the outskirts of Tripoli. A tattered red carpet was rolled out, and hundreds of fighters and officials in suits rushed toward the plane as he walked down the steps.
Abdul-Jalil's arrival was meant to show that the former rebels are getting ready to establish their government in the capital. Until now, most of the leaders of the anti-Gadhafi movement had been based in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Revolutionary forces entered Tripoli on Aug. 21, six months after the uprising against Gadhafi began.
The fall of Tripoli effectively sealed the fate of Gadhafi's regime, but Abdul-Jalil stayed away from the capital until Saturday. Officials close to Abdul-Jalil cited security concerns as one of the reasons.
Anti-Gadhafi forces control much of Libya, but have had trouble driving loyalists out of three strongholds, including the town of Bani Walid, where fierce fighting raged Saturday. From hiding, the fugitive Gadhafi has exhorted loyalists to keep fighting in audio messages.
Last night, a radio station in Bani Walid rebroadcast Gadhafi's last recording, in which he urged his followers to rise up and fight, saying "this is the zero hour. Shame on you if you don't fight. If you don't fight, you will go to hell," he said in the message, which was repeatedly replayed on the station.