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Libyans Jubilant As Gadhafi’s Capital Falls

Filed by KOSU News in World News.
August 22, 2011

With euphoric Libyan rebel forces in control of large parts of Tripoli early Monday, Moammar Gadhafi’s 42-year rule appeared to be disintegrating. The Libyan leader issued defiant statements on Sunday, but his whereabouts were not known as the sun rose over his capital.

The rebels met little resistance as they raced into Tripoli on Sunday. The fighters celebrated into the night with residents of the capital in Green Square, the symbolic heart of the fading regime.

Reporting from Tripoli, NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro said carloads of rebels were streaming into the capital on Sunday from the coastal city of Zawiya and were being received by locals with cheers and waving of the rebels’ flag.

But pockets of pro-Gadhafi fighters remained, and she said some parts of the city were still contested.

“There are still areas that are unsafe and there has continued to be some fighting,” Garcia-Navarro said. “By and large [the rebels] believe that if they can control Tripoli they have essentially won the civil war.”

By early Monday, rebels had set up checkpoints alongside residents, many of them secretly armed by rebel smugglers in recent weeks.

George Joffe, an expert on Libya and a lecturer at the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University, said he was surprised at how quickly Tripoli appears to have fallen.

“For the city to fall so easily shows that despite all the bluster of the Gaddafi regime, it had lost the confidence of the Libyan people a long time ago,” Joffe told NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered.

In a statement issued Sunday, President Barack Obama said that the surest way for the bloodshed to end is for Gadhafi and his regime to recognize that he no longer controls Libya.

“He needs to relinquish power once and for all,” the president said. “Meanwhile, the United States has recognized the Transitional National Council as the legitimate governing authority in Libya.”

Obama said that the future of Libya was now in the hands of the Libyan people. He said the United States would work in close coordination with the rebels and “continue to insist that the basic rights of the Libyan people are respected.”

Obama’s statement came after a Sunday evening conference call with his national security team.

Where Is Gadhafi?

While Gadhafi’s whereabouts were unknown, state TV continued to broadcast his bitter pleas for Libyans to defend his regime as late as Sunday night.

Opposition fighters captured his son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, who along with his father faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands. Another son was in contact with rebels about surrendering, the opposition said.

Garcia-Navarro says that in one of his messages late Sunday, Gadhafi appealed for a negotiation, but that rebels she talked to said there would be no deal.

“Many of them would like to see [Gadhafi] killed, others certainly would like to see him face trial,” she says,” but nobody wants to give him any clemency or leniency.”

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, told the Associated Press early Monday that “rebel special forces” had arrested Seif al-Islam Gadhafi. Seif Gadhafi was indicted with his father and Libya’s intelligence chief 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.

Moreno-Ocampo declined to give more details of the arrest or the source of the information. “Tomorrow morning we will talk to them,” the prosecutor said of the rebels. “It is time for justice, not revenge.”

Moreno-Ocampo said he had no word on the whereabouts of Libyan leader Gadhafi.

“We hope that Moammar Gadhafi is also arrested and also faces justice,” he said. “There is no more impunity for these crimes.”

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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