Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rebels Continue Fight in Tripoli As Khadafi's Whereabouts Remain Mystery

Despite reports yesterday claiming that several of Mumar Khadafi's sons were taken into custody by rebel forces in and around Tripoli, it turns out that it wasn't the case. Saif al-Islam made a pretty dramatic entrance and posed for photos among his supporters inside Tripoli.

Chalk that up to the fog of war and overly optimistic reporting/announcements from the rebels. However, the BBC live-blog is reporting that rebel spokesman Hany Hassan Soufrakis relates that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was actually captured but somehow managed to escape from the rebels: "He was captured and apparently he escaped; that's the information we're getting. To be honest, it's an embarrassment," he told the BBC World Service.

Heavy fighting is reported in the vicinity of the Khadafi compound. That follows reports of heavy gunfire reported elsewhere in Tripoli.
It was not clear whether the recent rebel gains were the beginnings of a decisive victory or, rather, the start of potentially prolonged street fighting for control of the capital. NATO officials in Brussels and London said the alliance’s warplanes were flying reconnaissance and other missions over Libya but declined to say whether the planes had bombed the fortified Qaddafi compound in Tripoli.

“Our mission is not over yet,” said Col. Roland Lavoie, a NATO spokesman, at a news conference in Naples, Italy, urging pro-Qaddafi forces to return to their barracks. “Until this is the case we will carry on with our mission.” Asked if the alliance knew where Colonel Qaddafi was, he said: “We don’t know. I don’t have a clue.”

“The situation in Tripoli is still very serious and very dangerous,” Colonel Lavoie said.

He acknowledged that the urban environment in Tripoli, a city of some two million, was “far more complex” for airstrikes, but said the alliance had precision weapons at its disposal to enforce its United Nations Security Council mandate, which is to protect civilians from attack.
NATO will continue its mission in Libya, despite the gains reported by the rebel forces and their consolidation of gains in and around Tripoli.

The thing is that no one knows where Mumar Khadafi is, and the state television network has finally gone off the air. Typically, state-run television broadcasts reports sympathetic to the regimes in power, so this is a positive development for the rebel forces.
Hours after the Jamahiriya (State of the Masses) channel had broadcast increasingly desperate pleas from Muammar Gaddafi, TV screens airing the station suddenly turned black. Minutes later the network's logo appeared at the bottom right of the screen, but without any picture or sound.

A spokesman for the rebel alliance claimed control of the media group's headquarters: ''The revolutionaries stormed the television building … after killing the soldiers surrounding it. It is now under their control.''
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Rebel forces also claimed to have detained Hala Misrati, the Libyan state TV anchor who famously vowed to die a martyr for Colonel Gaddafi while waving a gun on air on Sunday.
Via BBC's Live Blog:
Outside the capital, rebels have been telling AFP that they are pushing towards the oil hub of Ras Lanouf, on the road towards Col Gaddafi's hometown, Sirte. They hope to be in Ras Lanouf by tonight.

Since no one knows where Khadafi's gone, it is possible that he returned to his hometown where he may be able to rely on his connections to sustain the fight for just a while longer (further extending the bloodshed).

That Saif apparently escaped isn't a good sign for the rebels, but his appearance in the dark of night doesn't exactly inspire confidence in what's left of the Khadafi regime either - they can't go out in the open and are on the run.

Looks like Khadafi's Tripoli compound has been overrun, and rebels are displaying documents from within the compound.

Rebels have hoisted their flag over Col Gaddafi's home in the Bab al-Aziziya compound, rebel TV reports.

Andy Carvin tweets: Even if opposition gets into compound and Gaddafi is there, there's a huge network of tunnels under the city. Could become cat and mouse.

Libyan kids playing atop a tank belonging to Khadafi's formerly elite military unit:

Libyan rebels inside the Khadafi compound (HT: Killgore Trout):

Still, no one knows where Mumar Khadafi has gone. I think he's gone back to his home town of Sirte, even as his loyalists have reportedly flocked to Tripoli to attempt to thwart the rebel groups. Meanwhile, the rebels appear to be consolidating their gains although the loyalists have again fired Scud missiles towards Misrata.

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