Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Noose Tightens Around Khadafi

We might be witnessing the beginning of the end of Mumar Khadafi's 40 year reign in Libya. Rebel forces have claimed to have entered Tripoli and Khadafi has not been seen in public in several weeks although he has issued two audio recordings in the past week exhorting his followers to defeat the rebels:
For the first time in months, witnesses in Tripoli reported heavy fighting across the capital late Saturday night, even as rebel forces claimed to have encircled the city by taking major towns to its east, west and south.

Rebel leaders in Tunis and eastern Libya hailed the beginning of a new uprising in the capital against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s rule. And after months of rebel offenses that crumbled or stalled despite heavy support from a NATO airstrike campaign, it was the first time since the uprising began in February that the rebels threatened Colonel Qaddafi’s ultimate stronghold.

“We are coordinating the attacks inside, and our forces from outside are ready to enter Tripoli,” said Anwar Fekini, a rebel leader from the mountainous region in western Libya, speaking by telephone from Tunis. “If you can call any mobile number in Tripoli, you will hear in the background the beautiful sound of the bullets of freedom.”

Phone calls to several Tripoli residents from different neighborhoods confirmed widespread gunfire and explosions. And there were reports of frequent NATO jet overflights and airstrikes — a common accompaniment to the drumbeat of the rebel advance in the past week.

But in an audio message broadcast on state television, his second in a week, Colonel Qaddafi rejected claims of rebel gains, saying his forces had beaten back the Tripoli uprising within hours and announcing military successes in the same cities rebels had claimed to seize on Saturday. He gave the date and time several times to confirm that he was speaking as events were unfolding.
Khadafi's compound may have been breached, but there's no way to know whether he's still in the city, or has been there for any time in the past couple of weeks. One of the major worries is that he fled for the mountains and will attempt to fight a guerrilla campaign. That's even with Khadafi claiming that he'll stay in Tripoli to the last.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi said Sunday he will stay in Tripoli "until the end" and called on his supporters around the country to help liberate the capital from a rebel offensive.

He said in an audio message played over state television he was "afraid that Tripoli will burn" and he said he would provide weapons to supporters to fight off the rebels.

Earlier, Libyan rebels captured a major military base that defends Gadhafi's stronghold of Tripoli as clashes and protests raged in the streets of the capital on Sunday.

An Associated Press reporter with the rebels rapidly advancing toward Tripoli saw them take over the base of the Khamis Brigade, 16 miles west of the capital. After a brief gunbattle, Gadhafi's forces fled.
If it's turning into a rout in Tripoli, the rebels will likely claim victory over Khadafi's regime despite Khadafi's protestations to the contrary (and on that front, Khadafi may rival Baghdad Bob on handling the truth).

The end may have come even quicker than anyone could have imagined. There are reports that Khadafi's son has been captured by rebel groups, and there are even reports that Khadafi himself has been shot and killed, or has otherwise fled to Algeria.

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