Monday, August 22, 2011

The Beginning of the End in Libya?

Today the news is abuzz with reports that the rebels have captured parts of Tripoli. I may be wrong but I still fear that the fight is not yet over. Here is the latest from the BBC.

Scenes of Joy as Libya Rebels Enter Central Tripoli

BBC News
22 August 2011

A convoy of Libyan rebels has rolled into central Tripoli past celebrating crowds after a day of heavy fighting in and around the capital.

Crowds on Green Square cheered them, waving flags and firing salutes.

President Obama said the Gaddafi regime had reached a "tipping point". The UK said the end was near for the Libyan leader, and urged him to go.

The rebels reportedly captured Col Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, as the Colonel himself vowed to fight on.

International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he had been informed of the arrest. The court has indicted Saif al-Islam for torturing and killing civilians.

Another of Col Gaddafi's sons, Muhammad, was speaking on the phone to al-Jazeera TV when he said the rebels were surrounding his home. Gunfire was heard before the line cut off.

The hotel where we and other foreign journalists are staying is still under the control of pro-Gaddafi guards, and we believe that they are now preparing to defend it from opposition forces.

There's been an awful lot of firing going on in recent hours in the area.

We believe there will be some sort of rebel attempt to take the hotel because it's the place from which the Libyan information minister has been broadcasting his take on the conflict - it's also the place from where Libyan TV has recently been broadcasting its nightly shows from.

So it's one of the targets of the opposition forces. What's happening here is in sharp contrast to what's happening three miles - or 5km - down the road in Green Square, where there are jubilant scenes.

Fighting continued into the night in some districts while the rebels and their supporters celebrated on Green Square - which they renamed Martyrs' Square.

Government forces still control parts of the city - including the areas around Col Gaddafi's Bab al-Azizia compound and near the hotel where foreign journalists are staying, south of the city centre.

The Libyan leader is believed to have thousands of armed followers in the capital although reports suggest a number of them have surrendered to the rebels.

The chairman of the rebel National Transition Council Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil said early on Monday: "I warn you, there are still pockets of resistance in and around Tripoli."

Libyan Information Minister Moussa Ibrahim said fighting in the city since noon (10:00 GMT) on Sunday had left 1,300 people dead and 5,000 wounded, and added that hospitals could not cope with the casualties.

Rebel forces advanced from the east and west in recent days, backed by Nato aircraft enforcing a UN resolution to protect civilians. (Blogger's note: this is the supposed mission. Obviously Nato is waging a war against Qaddafi and his regime).

In Washington, President Obama said in a statement: "Tonight, the momentum against the Gaddafi regime has reached a tipping point. Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of a tyrant."

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said it was clear "that the end is near for Gaddafi".

Mr Cameron said the Libyan leader had "committed appalling crimes against the people of Libya and he must go now to avoid any further suffering for his own people".

Safe passage offer

TV footage showed Libyans kneeling and kissing the ground of Tripoli in gratitude for what some called a "blessed day".

During the day, one group of rebels had pushed in from the west while another set up checkpoints on the eastern outskirts.

It is clear there have been bloody battles in parts of Tripoli, the BBC's Matthew Price reports from the city.

The Libyan information minister insisted the government was "very resilient". "We have thousands and thousands of fighters," he said.

He accused Nato of backing "armed gangs" with air power, and added that a further 376 people had been killed and almost 900 injured in fighting on Saturday. The figures could not be verified independently.

Mr Ibrahim added that the Gaddafi government was prepared to negotiate directly with the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) but later on Sunday, Col Gaddafi issued a call on state TV for his supporters to "cleanse" Tripoli of rebels.

"How come you allow Tripoli, the capital, to be under occupation once again?" he asked. "The traitors are paving the way for the occupation forces to be deployed in Tripoli."

Mr Jalil said the rebels would halt their offensive if Col Gaddafi announced his departure.

Speaking about Saif al-Islam Gaddafi's capture, he said he was "being kept in a secure place under close guard until he is handed over to the judiciary".

He added that rebel forces would give Col Gaddafi and his sons safe passage out of the country.

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