for relentless government propaganda throughout the Gadafy years, went off the air as rebels seized its Tripoli transmitters and tightened their grip on the capital.
Government troops kept up resistance in some areas of the city, but were pummelled by Nato warplanes, which struck at least 40 targets in and around the city in 48 hours – the most intense bombing since the air campaign started more than five months ago. By nightfall the battle was focused on the wreckage of Gadafy’s stronghold, Bab al-Aziziya. The compound was almost flattened by earlier Nato sorties, but it is believed to sit atop a network of underground bunkers.
Crowds gathered in Tripoli’s Green Square to celebrate the arrival of the rebels at one point, but many other residents stayed indoors while street fighting continued in other districts. The head of the opposition National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil cautioned journalists at the rebel headquarters in Benghazi: “The real moment of victory is when Gadafy is captured.”
Most Tripoli residents welcomed the arrival of the rebels, who swept in riding a noisy cavalcade of pick-ups. But some did not. Tariq Hussain (32) admitted to ambivalence about the rebels’ victory. “I’m afraid of them, to be honest,” he said. Others, however, were jubilant. “Forty-two years too much. It’s game over, Gadafy,” Abdul Mohammad said, as a group of teenagers stomped on a green Gadafy baseball hat.
“There’s no person here supporting Gadafy,” Nasar al-Fahdi, a translator, explained. “It was just about fear. When someone says you have to support him, and he has a whole army behind him, what can you say?”
In areas liberated by the rebels, the mood was euphoric. Locals stood on street corners, flashing V-signs as opposition militia from towns across Libya swept past. Women cheered and whooped from upper storeys; by the afternoon mosques were broadcasting polite requests not to fire in the air but to conserve ammunition instead. Nobody listened. From checkpoints hastily set up, fighters continuously let off a festive pop-pop.
Meanwhile, world leaders called for Gadafy loyalists to stop fighting and for the leader to give himself up. President Barack Obama said the US would be a friend and partner to Libya, but urged rebels not to to seek justice through violent reprisals. “The Gadafy regime is coming to an end and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people,” he said.
Rebel forces detained three of Gadafy’s sons, Saif al-Islam, Saadi and Mohammed, over the weekend, although Mohammed was later said to have fled with loyalist help. But the veteran leader’s whereabouts were unknown last night. He has not been seen in public for months.
A US state department official, Jeffrey Feltman said in an ABC television interview that Washington did not know where Gadafy was, but Pentagon spokesman Col Dave Lapan said American officials still believe he was in Libya. “We do not have any information that he has left the country,” he said.
Gadafy is wanted for crimes against humanity by the international criminal court, along with Saif al-Islam and his intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi, for their role in the suppression of the anti-government protests which began in February. – ( Guardian Service)
IRISH REACTION: MINISTER FOR Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has called for Muammar Gadafy to leave Libya without further violence.
Mr Gilmore said he welcomed the apparent end to the dictator’s 42-year rule and said Gadafy had no role in the country’s future government. The Minister said his officials had remained in close contact with Irish families in Libya and had arranged for possible evacuations. All are safe, he said.
“Yesterday I watched the hope and emotion as the pace of events quickened and the rebels surged towards and entered Tripoli, and the population celebrated what looks like the end of the dictatorship which has ruled Libya for 42 years,” Mr Gilmore said. “In the end the forces of the dictator, which had no real popular support, seem to have withered away.
“The fighting is probably not yet over, but we can hope now that the Libyan revolution can be brought quickly to a successful end with the minimum of bloodshed.”
The Labour leader said the National Transitional Council was the only authority in the country and said he hoped it would be able to establish an effective government.
“I have met their representatives, and was impressed by their vision of an inclusive and democratic future for all Libyans, and the thought-out plans they had for achieving it,” the Minister said.
“The international community will look to them to respect human rights and the rule of law, including in respect of prisoners, and to restore peace and stability.”
Mr Gilmore offered his congratulations to Libyans living in Ireland for a “hopeful new beginning in their homeland”.
Politicians in Northern Ireland have pressed Col Gadafy’s regime since 2009 for compensation in recognition of the human cost of Gadafy’s decision to ship tonnes of arms and explosives to the IRA.
The Democratic Unionist Party’s Nigel Dodds welcomed developments in Libya.
“In the midst of the celebrations in Libya, we must also remember the victims of Gadafy-sponsored IRA terrorism.
“In Ulster, and throughout the United Kingdom, we suffered over many decades from the appalling consequences of IRA terrorism, heavily funded and sponsored by rogue states such as Libya.
“Fuelled by a hatred of Britain, Col Gadafy supplied the Provisional IRA with weapons and cash for many years.”
Party colleague Jeffrey Donaldson said discussions had taken place with the alternative Libyan government, and he argued the potential handover of power would not derail the compensation hopes. Mr Donaldson said: “We are not starting from scratch with a potential new government, we have a memorandum of understanding with them.”
In 2009 the two politicians met officials in Libya to argue their case. They have not put a value on the scale of compensation, but called for measures including “substantial business and infrastructure investment, wide-ranging community development projects, bringing closure for those who have suffered in the past . . . [and] resolution of existing claims by UK citizens involving Libya”.
Mr Dodds said: “As a result of Libya’s prolonged and persistent support for the IRA, many innocent men, women and children are dead, and their relatives scarred, physically and psychologically, for life. We may be living in more peaceful times in Ulster today, but those scars will never heal, and the victims must never be forgotten.