Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rebels in Tripoli's Central Square

From Al Jazeera:

Euphoric Libyan rebels have moved into the centre of the capital, Tripoli, as Muammar Gaddafi's defenders melted away and thousands of jubilant civilians rushed out of their homes to cheer the long convoys of pickup trucks packed with fighters shooting in the air.

The rebels' surprising and speedy leap forward, after six months of largely deadlocked civil war, was packed into just a few dramatic hours. By nightfall on Sunday, they had advanced more than 32km to Tripoli.

Zeina Khodr, Al Jazeera's correspondent, said from the Green Square: "There's a party in the Libyan capital tonight. The people are in charge of the city. They've decided the square is now called Martyr's Square, the original name. They're shouting 'we're free' and shooting at a poster of Gaddafi."

Green Square had been the site of night rallies by Gaddafi supporters throughout the uprising.

Earlier, the rebel leadership said on Sunday that Gaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam, was arrested in a tourist village in western Tripoli. There was no word on the whereabouts of Gaddafi himself.

US President Barak Obama said Gaddafi must "acknowledge the reality that he no longer controls Libya. He needs to relinquish power once and for all".

In a statement issued from Martha's Vineyard, where he's vacationing, Obama said: "The future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people." He promised to work in close coordination with the rebels and said the US will "continue to insist that the basic rights of the Libyan people are respected."

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, confirmed Seif al-Islam had been detained and said the ICC would speak to the rebel National Transitional Council about his transfer to the Hague.

Seif al-Islam, his father and Libya's intelligence chief were indicted earlier this year for allegedly ordering, planning and participating in illegal attacks on civilians in the early days of the violent crackdown on anti-regime protesters.

Meanwhile, Gaddafi's eldest son, Mohammed, surrendered to rebel forces and spoke to Al Jazeera shortly afterwards.

In the interview, he took an apologetic tone and said it was a lack of wisdom that caused the revolution and crisis in Libya.

"I've never been a government or security official, however I can tell you the absence of wisdom and foresight is what brought us to here today. Our differences could have been solved easily," he said.

As he spoke though, his house was attacked and shot at and the interview ended with the sound of gunfire.

"I'm being attacked right now," he said. "This is gunfire inside my house, they're inside my house. There is no God but Allah - no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger."

However, the head of the National Transitional Council later told Al Jazeera that Mohammed was not hurt.

"Neither Mohamed Muammar Gaddafi nor any one of his family was harmed," Mustafa Abdel Jalil said. "He will remain in his house, and I guarantee his safety."

There were no confirmed reports about the fate or whereabouts of other members of the Gaddafi family...

...The rebels said they had entered the Green Square near the compound of Gaddafi where his supporters gathered nightly throughout the uprising to rally for their leader of more than 40 years.

Our correspondent said the rebels met little resistance as they moved from the western outskirts into the capital in a dramatic turning of the tides in the six-month-old Libyan civil war.

"Hundreds are on the street, and most of them are armed. Most of these are fighters who came down from the mountains in western areas of Libya. They entered the capital a few hours ago and with the opposition inside the capital, have managed to liberate the city from the government's control," our correspondent said.

"Everyone we have been talking to in Libya say that they want to Gaddafi and his son to pay for their action and for what they accuse them as crimes against humanity.

"People are worried about sleeper cells but cleaning up operations are underway to make sure there are no snipers in the buildings nearby.

"For the people here, Tripoli has fallen and they are in control ... and this is what they have been telling us: 'For years we could not speak, prevented from any sort of freedom whatsoever’.

"People are confident that the government has fallen and they are in control."
Stunning, stunning news.

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