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Pattaya Daily News

22 August 2011 :: 10:08:50 am 57503

Libya rebels surge into the centre of Tripoli

TRIPOLI, August 22, 2011- Libyan rebels surged into Tripoli Sunday in a final drive to oust Moamer Kadhafi, seizing swathes of the capital including the symbolic Green Square and arresting the strongman's son, Seif al-Islam.
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US President Barack Obama said the Kadhafi regime was at a “tipping point” and that the “tyrant” must go, adding a call for the rebels to respect human rights and move to democracy.

Senior rebel figure Mahmud Jibril said there were still pockets of resistance in and around Tripoli and warned his forces to be cautious.

He also called on them to act responsibly as the battle to end four decades of dictatorship neared its end.

“The fight is not over yet,” he said on rebel television Al-Ahrar. “God willing, in few hours our victory will be complete.”

Thousands of residents poured onto the streets to welcome the rebels, congregating at the site which they renamed Martyrs Square near the water front in the centre of Tripoli.

Sky News showed jubilant crowds, with many people waving the red, black and green flag of anti-regime forces, dancing in joy and shouting Allahu Akbar (God is greatest). Some fired rifles into the air.

Men flashed V-for-victory signs and shouted “tell Moamer (Kadhafi) and his sons that Libya has men.” A Sky correspondent said people were lighting fires with posters of the Libyan strongman and the solid green flag of the regime that they had torn down.

Similar scenes of jubilation were witnessed in Benghazi, the rebels’ bastion in the east, where delirious residents danced and proclaimed the end of the regime of the “tyrant” Kadhafi.

While Kadhafi spoke to the nation three times on Sunday in audio recordings, his whereabouts were unknown.

But the 69-year-old strongman vowed not to surrender.

As the rebels boasted they would take full control of Tripoli during the night, Kadhafi issued his third message of the day, urging the people of Tripoli to “purge the capital.”

Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told a press conference 1,300 people had been killed in the rebel assault on the capital, describing the fighting as a “real tragedy.”

But there was no independent confirmation of casualties, nor any immediate indication of how much resistance may have been put up against the rebels.

Ibrahim insisted that Libya’s regime “is still strong and thousands of volunteers and soldiers are ready to fight” although the reality on the ground seemed to belie his boasts.

In The Hague, the International Criminal Court confirmed that Kadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, for whom the ICC had issued arrest warrants for crimes against humanity, is in detention.

“I have received confidential information stating he has been arrested,” Luis Moreno-Ocampo told AFP.

“We hope he can soon be in the Hague” to face justice, he said, adding that he planned to contact the “Libyan transitional government” later in the day.

Moreno-Ocampo said the ICC “is ready to help Libyans to deal with their difficult past” and ensure that “no crime remains unpunished”.

Earlier, the chairman of Libya’s rebel National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdel Jalil told Al-Jazeera television from Benghazi Seif was “being kept in a secure place under close guard until he is handed over to the judiciary.”

Abdel Jalil did not say when or where he had been captured.

Describing their assault, rebel leaders said an advance party of fighters had arrived by sea in the capital early Sunday and joined sleeper cells of rebels to launch the final drive, codenamed “Mermaid.”

Another rebel force advanced from the west, moving in a convoy of around 100 vehicles as onlookers fired celebratory gunfire into the air, an AFP correspondent said.

By afternoon they had overrun the eastern suburb of Tajura and boasted that they would seize control of the capital during the night.

It was still not clear how much of the capital the rebels had seized, but it appeared they had taken over the headquarters of the Libyana mobile telephone company, located in Tajura.

Libyana clients received a message on their mobiles from the NTC “congratulating the Libyan people for the fall of Moamer Kadhafi.”

Meanwhile, a rebel party seized an army barracks at a western entrance to Tripoli, raiding the stores of missiles and other ammunition, AFP correspondents there said.

They also released dozens of prisoners held in Maya, 25 kilometres (15 miles) west of Tripoli, they said.

A rebel spokesman said the insurgents were also tightening the noose around loyalist forces in the far west of Libya, near the Tunisian border.

Throughout the day Sunday, Kadhafi was adamant he would not relinquish power.

He vowed not to surrender and boasted he would “emerge victorious” in the battle for Tripoli.

“We will not, we will not abandon Tripoli to the occupants and their agents. I am with you in this battle,” he said in an audio message broadcast in the afternoon.

“We do not surrender and, by God’s grace, we will emerge victorious.”

He called on his supporters to “march on Tajura in tens of thousands to purge the officials of the colonisers,” in a reference to the NATO-backed rebels.

Earlier, he had aired a message urging supporters to “march by the millions” to liberate cities held by “traitors and rats.”

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said early Monday Kadhafi’s rule in Libya is “clearly crumbling.”

“The sooner Kadhafi realises that he cannot win the battle against his own people, the better — so that the Libyan people can be spared further bloodshed and suffering,” he said in a statement.

Obama issued a written statement calling on the rebels to respect human rights, show leadership, preserve the institutions of the Libyan state and move towards democracy.

“Tonight, the momentum against the Kadhafi regime has reached a tipping point. Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of a tyrant,” Obama said from as took a vacation on the resort of Martha’s Vineyard.

“The Kadhafi regime is showing signs of collapsing. The people of Libya are showing that the universal pursuit of dignity and freedom is far stronger than the iron fist of a dictator.”

Obama said the surest way for bloodshed to end was simple: “Moamer Kadhafi and his regime need to recognise that their rule has come to an end.”

“Kadhafi needs to acknowledge the reality that he no longer controls Libya. He needs to relinquish power once and for all.”

Obama also noted that the United States has recognized NTC as Libya’s legitimate governing authority and said it “should continue to demonstrate the leadership that is necessary to steer the country through a transition by respecting the rights of the people of Libya.”

For his part, Jibril urged rebels to act with magnanimity.

“The world is watching us,” he added. “Do not avenge yourselves.”

He took particular pains to refer to those close to Kadhafi who might be captured.

“Prove that we are up the responsibility to protect them and their lives,” he said.

He called on people to pull together “to achieve democracy and to build the new Libya, remembering all the people who give their lives in this war.”

Reporter : AFP   Photo : AFP   Category : World News

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