February 26, 2011

EDITOR: The Libyan endgame is nearing its end

Despite the mass murder by Gaddafi mercenaries, more and more of Libya has turned over to the rebel civilian revolution. Many of the army, airforce and special forces, as well as the civilian workers in most of the country are now fighting to rid the country of its diseased tyrant. One hopes the end of the Gaddafi rule is very near.

Gaddafi ‘losing grip’ over Libya: Al Jazeera online

Demonstrators remain on the streets as leader’s power may soon be confined only to the capital, Tripoli.
26 Feb 2011

Most of Libya is out of control of the government, and Muammar Gaddafi’s grip on power may soon be confined only to the capital, Tripoli, Libya’s former interior minister has said.

General Abdul Fatteh Younis told Al Jazeera on Saturday that he had called upon Gaddafi to end his resistance to the uprising, although he does not expect him to do so.

The embattled Libyan regime passed out guns to civilian supporters, set up checkpoints and sent out armed patrols, witnesses said in Tripoli.

Some of Libya’s security forces reportedly have given up the fight. Footage believed to be filmed on Friday showed soldiers joining the protesters.

The footage showed demonstrators carrying them on their shoulders in the city of Az Zawiyah after having defected — a scene activists said is being repeated across the country.

Al Jazeera, however, is unable to independently verify the content of the video, which was obtained via social networking websites.

Our correspondent in Libya reported on Friday that army commanders in the east who had defected had told her that military commanders in the country’s west were also beginning to turn against Gaddafi.

They warned, however, that the Khamis Brigade, an army special forces brigade that is loyal to the Gaddafi family and is equipped with sophisticated weapons, is currently still fighting anti-government forces.

Our correspondent, who cannot be named for security reasons, said that despite the gains, people are anxious about what Gaddafi might do next and also because his loyalists were still at large.

Interim government

Mustafa Mohamed Abud Ajleil, Libya’s former justice minister, has led the formation of an interim government based in the eastern city of Benghazi, the online edition of the Quryna newspaper reported on Saturday.

Quryna quoted him as saying that Muammar Gaddafi “alone” bore responsibility “for the crimes that have occurred” in Libya and that his tribe, Gaddadfa, were forgiven.

“Abud Ajleil insisted on the unity of the homeland’s territory, and that Libya is free and its capital is Tripoli,” Quryna quoted him as saying in a telephone conversation.

Abu Yousef, a resident from the town of Tajoura, told Al Jazeera that live ammunition was being used against anti-government protesters.

“Security forces are also searching houses in the area and killing those who they accuse of being against the government,” he said.

Anti-government protesters have attacked black Africans in Libya, mistaking them for mercenaries.

“The situation is very dangerous. Every day there are more than a hundred who die, every day there are shootings. The most dangerous situation is for foreigners like us and also us black people. Because Gaddafi brought soldiers from Chad from Niger. They are black and tey are killing Arabs,” Seidou Boubaker Jallou told Al Jazeera.

Jallou and his friend, both from Mali, fled by night to the Tunisian border. They said the roads out of the West are still in the hands of those loyal to Gaddafi.

Zawiya, a town 120 km from the Tunisian border, is now in the hands of the people. Egyptians who arrived at the border described a bloody massacre on Thursday which left many dead.

“I was in Zawiya’s martyrs square. There was a group of army men in the square who attacked the protesters. It was a very fierce confrontation. They were shooting using heavy weaponry. There were at least 15 to 20 dead and I had footage of what happened but the Libyan authorities on the Tunisian border took even my phone. Gaddafi wants to commit a crime with the absence of any media,” Ahmed, an Egyptian, told Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri.

‘Civil war’

Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, the Libyan leader’s son, said people in “three-quarters of the country are living in peace”.

In an interview on Al-Arabiya television, Seif said that the protesters are being manipulated and that the situation had “opened the doors to a civil war”.

He denied that African mercenaries had been recruited to attack the protesters in a crackdown that the United Nations say has killed at least 1,000 people.

“Show us the mercenaries, show us the women and children who were killed,” he said. “These reports about mercenaries are lies.” The protests were being led by “small groups, armed groups,” according to Seif al-Islam.

“Those provoking these people are terrorists,” he added, echoing his father who in a televised address last week blamed al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden for manipulating the country’s youth with drugs.

The eastern region of the oil-rich North African nation is now believed to be largely free of Gaddafi control since the popular uprising began on February 14 with protests in the city of Benghazi.

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from the town of Al-Baida in eastern Libya, said that while many parts of the country’s east is no longer government controlled, local residents do not want to separate from the rest of Libya.

“They still want a united Libya, and want Tripoli to remain its capital,” she said.

Our correspondent added that many in the country’s east have felt abandoned by the Gaddafi government, despite the vast oil wealth located in the region.

The crackdown has sparked international condemnation. The United States said it was moving ahead with sanctions against the regime.

Barack Obama, the US president,  issued an executive order, seizing assets and blocking any property in the United States belonging to Gaddafi or his four sons.

The European Union also agreed to impose an arms embargo, asset freezes and travel bans on Libya.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said on Friday that decisive action by the Security Council against the crackdown must be taken, warning that any delay would add to the growing death toll which he said now came to over 1,000.

The official death toll in the violence remains unclear. Francois Zimeray, France’s top human rights official, has said that it could be as high as 2,000.

Ban’s call, as well as an emotional speech by the Libyan ambassador to the United Nations, prompted the council to order a special meeting on Saturday to consider a sanctions resolution against Gaddafi.

Libya: Gaddafi in spotlight at UN Security Council: BBC

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has demanded “decisive action” from the Security Council

The UN Security Council is meeting to consider action against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s government in Libya over its attempts to put down an uprising.

A draft resolution calls for an arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze.

It also proposes referring Col Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.

Meanwhile, one of Col Gaddafi’s sons has said the Libyan people “have no future” if agreement on ending the rebellion is not reached.

Much of Libya, especially the east, is now controlled by anti-Gaddafi forces but the Libyan leader still controls the capital Tripoli, home to two million of the country’s 6.5 million population.

The UN estimates more than 1,000 people have died in the 10-day-old revolt.

The global body’s World Food Programme has warned that the food distribution system is “at risk of collapsing” in the North African nation, which is heavily dependent on imports.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has demanded “decisive action” over the Libya crisis by the Security Council. The draft resolution it is considering is backed by Britain, France, Germany and the US.

Checkpoints are operating at major crossroads and on arterial roads into the city. Some are run by the army, at others armed men in civilian clothes are stopping cars.

The authorities here admit there’s been trouble in Tripoli, but picking up the line used by Colonel Gaddafi himself they say it was caused by youths who’d been using drugs or by al-Qaeda supporters who are said to have hijacked the protests.

Small but very noisy crowds of Gaddafi loyalists surrounded the BBC team wherever we went.

Everywhere I went in Tripoli was calm except for the airport where there was chaos.

The security forces at the airport are tense and jumpy, struggling to control the crowds at the terminal entrances, sometimes using various kinds of clubs to keep them in line.

The Libyan delegation at the UN has sent a letter to the Security Council backing measures to hold to account those responsible for armed attacks on Libyan civilians, including action through the International Criminal Court.

The BBC’s UN correspondent Barbara Plett says the main point of contention in the draft resolution is the proposal to refer Libya to the court, so the Libyan delegation statement will put pressure on those in the council who oppose the reference or want to water it down.

The US has already imposed sanctions against Libya, and closed its embassy in Tripoli.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Friday freezing assets held in the US by Col Gaddafi, members of his family and senior officials. The president said he was also seizing Libyan state property in the US, to prevent it being misappropriated by Tripoli.

Thousands of foreign nationals – many of them employed in the oil industry – continue to be evacuated from the country by air, sea and land.

Saturday saw two British military transport aircraft pick up about 150 foreign nationals in the desert south of the second city, Benghazi, and fly them to the Mediterranean island of Malta.

Britain also announced it had temporarily closed its embassy in Tripoli and pulled out its staff on the last UK government-chartered aircraft because of the deteriorating security situation.

Airport chaos
BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, at Tripoli airport, reports that about 10,000 people remain outside the terminal building and several thousand more are inside. He saw piles of discarded luggage and personal possessions, even TVs, abandoned by people who’ve been desperate to get out.

Most of the people trying to leave are Egyptians, and many of them told our correspondent they had been waiting there for seven days.

Friday saw Col Gaddafi make a defiant address to supporters in Tripoli, but in an interview with the al-Arabiya TV network broadcast on Saturday, his son Saif al-Islam appeared to strike a more cautious note.

“What the Libyan nation is going through has opened the door to all options, and now the signs of civil war and foreign interference have started,” said Saif Gaddafi.

“An agreement has to be reached because the people have no future unless they agree together on a new programme.”

Friday saw reports of anti-government demonstrators in several areas of Tripoli coming under fire from government troops and pro-Gaddafi militiamen, but on Saturday the capital city was calm, with shops open and people on the streets.

A Libyan journalist told the BBC that supporters of Colonel Gaddafi were occupying central Green Square in a public show of support.

Outside the capital, anti-Gaddafi protesters are consolidating their power in Benghazi. Leaders of the uprising are setting up committees to run the city and deliver basic services.

It is believed that rebels are fighting units of the regular army in the western cities of Misrata and Zawiya.


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