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Libyan rebels seize Tripoli, inch toward victory

08-22-2011 10:54 BJT Special Report:Int'l Intervention in Libya |

BENGHAZI/TRIPOLI, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- Libyan rebel forces have till early Monday seized control of much of Tripoli and taken two of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's sons into custody.

Video grab of Al-Jazeera International TV taken on Aug. 22, 2011 shows Libyan rebel forces celebrate at in Tripoli, capital of Libya. Libyan rebel forces have till early Monday seized control of much of Tripoli and taken two of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's sons into custody. (Xinhua)

Rebels waving opposition flags were seen in the wee hours entering the Green Square in the heart of the capital, a highly symbolic place where Gaddafi's supporters had often rallied during the past weeks.

Senior official Abdullah Almayhop from the National Transitional Council (NTC) said Sunday that opposition forces had controlled the entire capital except Gaddafi's Bab Al-Aziziyah stronghold and were clearing up the remnants of Gaddafi's troops.

Facing the offensive of the rebels, forces loyal to Gaddafi appeared to have crumbled quickly, and the guard unit responsible for Gaddafi's security had reportedly surrendered to the rebels.

At present, the whereabouts of Muammar Gaddafi remains a mystery. Gaddafi had vowed to fight to the last drop of blood and not to leave Libya.

Senior rebel leader Mahmoud Jibril, however, cautioned that "the fight is not over yet," while expressing the hope on rebel television that "in few hours our victory will be complete."

The rapid collapse of Gaddafi's defense came though the embattled leader urged his followers twice on Sunday to pick up arms and fight against the rebels, calling it "the obligation of all Libyans" and "a matter of life or death."

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said Sunday that some 1,300 people had been killed in fighting in Tripoli on Sunday and that NATO should be held responsible for the bloodshed.

The government was ready for immediate negotiations with the rebels, he added, while urging NATO to persuade the rebel forces to halt attacks at the capital.

Meanwhile, the rebels announced that Gaddafi's eldest son Mohammed had surrendered and Gaddafi's second son Saif al-Islam had been captured and kept under custody in a safe place.

The arrest of Saif al-Islam has also been confirmed by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, which issued arrest warrants in June for Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi over charges of crimes against humanity.

The Tripoli battle was the culmination of days of dramatic changes on the frontline which saw the rebels, backed by NATO air strikes, break an apparent stalemate and close in on the capital from three directions.

Speaking at Brussels, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said early Monday that Gaddafi's 42-year rule in Libya is "clearly crumbling," while urging the pro-Gaddafi forces to stop resistance and spare the Libyan people "further bloodshed and suffering."

"NATO is ready to work with the Libyan people and with the Transitional National Council, which holds a great responsibility," he said in a statement.

"They must make sure that the transition is smooth and inclusive, that the country stays united, and that the future is founded on reconciliation and respect for human rights," he added.

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to make a statement on the Libyan situation soon. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said earlier that Gaddafi's days "are numbered."

A statement from British Prime Minister David Cameron said "it is clear from the scenes we are witnessing in Tripoli that the end is near for Gaddafi."

In Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement Sunday that Gaddafi should give up "immediately what power he has left" as a rebel victory is "no longer in doubt."

Also on Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez lashed out at Western powers for "destroying Tripoli with bombs," saying that "let's pray for the Libyan people."

Libya has been embroiled for months in the deadliest turbulence that swept West Asia and North Africa after its initial eruption in Tunisia.

Some Western powers militarily intervened in March under the name of a UN resolution adopted to protect Libyan civilians, and NATO took over control of the mission weeks later.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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