A rebel fighter destroys a poster of Gaddafi found in the administration centre after rebels seized full control of Az-Zawiyah [Bob Strong/Reuters]
It appears that the end is near if it has not already come for the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi. After nearly six months of civil war in which a rag tag coalition of rebels aided by NATO airpower, Special Forces and intelligence agencies has reduced Gaddafi’s zone of control to the Bab Al-Aziziya-Jazeera stronghold.Green Squarethe center of many pro-Gaddafi rallies since the beginning of the uprising is now decked out in the pre-Gaddafi flag that has served as a unifying symbol for the rebels who span the spectrum from pro-Western democrats to Islamists as rebels and residents of Tripoli celebrated together amid rifle fire.
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.”
The regime began to collapse this week as rebels captured the key western city of Az Zawiyah and rapidly advanced from the west into Tripoli gaining its outskirts by Saturday even as other rebel forces advanced from the south and east, a move that Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice-chairman of the NTC said “There is co-ordination with the rebels in Tripoli. This was a pre-set plan. They’ve been preparing for a while. There’s co-ordination with the rebels approaching from the east, west and south.” As they did most military resistance by pro-Gaddafi forces began to collapse. There are reports that the unit in charge of Gaddafi’s security has went over to the rebels with its commander instructing his soldiers to “lay down their arms.” The rebel forces also overran a key Libyan Army base which was the home of the Khamis Brigade named for his youngest son Khamis who serves as its commander.
The government of neighboring Tunisia has recognized the Nation Transitional Council as the legitimate government ofLibyaon Saturday joining a number of western nations in doing so.
The International Criminal Court has confirmed that Gaddafi’s son Saif Al-Islam and his brother Saadi have been captured by rebel “Special Forces.” Saif who has been the face of the regime for much of the rebellion was indicted with his father and the head of the State Intelligence Chief earlier in the year for the ruthless crackdown on Libya’s “Arab Spring” demonstrators was captured very early Monday morning inTripoli. SkyNews has reported that the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court told CNN that talks will be held with the Rebel National Transitional Council about transferring Saif toThe Hague.
Another report through Al Jazeera reported that another of Gaddafi’s son’s Mohammed cut off an interview after gunfire was heard telling the reporter “I..I… I am being attacked right now…inside, inside my house, inside.” According to Al Jazeera he refused to surrender, his guards shot at rebels. One rebel was killed and one bodyguard was injured and that he and his family are “safe” but Mohammed has confirmed to Al Jazeera TV that he “has been detained and is under house arrest.” Mohammed said in the interview “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.”
Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said “We are still very strong. We have thousands and thousands of fighters who have nowhere to go but to fight.” He also claimed that 65,000 “professional soldiers” were ready to defeat the rebels. Despite this there are reports that defecting Libyan soldiers are now clashing with the loyalists and African mercenaries that remain. The TNC admits that it does not yet completely control the city but is working on it.
As for Gaddafi himself there are some reports that he has fled even as he announced that he would not go into exile and said “We will fight to the last drop of blood,” he said. “We will never give up.” I his radio address Sunday night Gaddafi appeared to be begging for help from the people of Tripoli.
You You !
Come out of your houses and do this !
That is your duty !
Death or Life !
Come on, swarm the city of Tripoli !
From the inside and from the outside !
The women, who had weapon training, come out with her weapons!
You are all armed in the city of Tripoli
There is no excuse, just come out !
The collaborators of occupation are very small groups
How can you allow Tripoli, capital of Lybia, to fall under occupation another time, after the Revolution and Liberation and… ?
How can an armed population allow a handful of mercenaries, of traitors, of rats to open the way to occupation in the city of Tripoli
That is unacceptable
This is, this is dangerous
Tripoli burned and became like Baghdad, what is our excuse, why ?
The Tripoli that was safe and beautiful
What became of her when they made it a war zone?”
The situation is rapidly changing and at times chaotic. As in every revolution there is turmoil and it I am sure that there will still be some heavy fighting as loyalists aided by African mercenaries hired by Gaddafi continue the fight. The rebels themselves are not well organized but have the advantage of momentum and apparently the support of many citizens inTripoli. The fact that three of Gaddafi’s sons are now prisoners and that no major units of the Libyan Army appear to be intact indicates that Gaddafi’s regime is on its last legs. Despite this the rebels are preparing for more battles with Gaddafi supporters who they think will attempt to retake Green Square which has been renamed by the rebels “Martyr’s Square.”
What will come next is uncertain. The rebels represent various factions and many are Libyan expatriates who have returned to oust Gaddafi including a good number from the United States. In the mix are pro-Western democrats, Islamists, Socialists and others. Some represent the NTC while others represent tribes opposed to Gaddafi and some may be affiliated with Al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups. The problem is that the Libyan people, despite their passion for their country have no experience in governing and with the exception of expatiates from the United States and Western European countries no experience in democracy. Thus when Gaddafi is finally overthrown the fate of Lybia and its people will be uncertain. NATO has offered assistance and support to a post Gaddafi Libya. Likewise we have to wonder how this will impact the rest of the region in the coming months.
President Obama stated that the “United States will continue to work with partners to protect people of Libya and support shift to democracy” and that “Gaddafi needs to acknowledge the reality that he no longer controls Libya. He needs to relinquish power once and for all.”
The real question now is where Gaddafi is and what will happen to him? I do not suspect that he will be able to escape at this point with a no-fly zone and with rebels in control of all major routes in and out of Tripoli if he did not make his way out of the city before Sunday. If he is able to make his way to a country willing to shelter him is hard to say, however if the rebels catch him the question is will he fight to the death or will he surrender?
There will certainly be more to follow and Lord knows what will happen. We can all pray for the best even as the rebels continue to liberate their country and President Obama and NATO leaders continue to work with the TNC. As my Iraqi friends say “Inshallah.”