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Libyan Rebels Reach Center of Tripoli

August 21, 2011

After a six month war, rebels are reported to have reached the center of Tripoli after advancing quickly and largely unopposed through the Libyan capital.

Sky News showed rebels waving opposition flags and celebrating on central Green Square, which they said they would rename "Martyr Square."

Crowds later joined them on the streets, tearing down posters of the Libyan leader.

Reports said the rebels faced little or no opposition as they entered the city from the west.

Rebels said a presidential unit tasked with guarding Muammar Qaddafi and Tripoli had defected and joined the revolt.

In two audio messages, Qaddafi called on Libyans to defend the city and "save" it from falling into the hands of "colonialists."

Ever defiant, Qaddafi vowed to stay until the end.

A spokesman for Qaddafi accused NATO of intensifying attacks to help the rebels advance on what he called a "peaceful city."

"NATO has intensified its attacks on and around Tripoli, giving immediate and direct support for the rebel forces to advance into a peaceful capital of this great nation, and the death toll is beyond imagination," said Moussa Ibrahim at a late night press conference in Tripoli.

Ibrahim claimed 1,300 people had been killed over the past twenty four hours.

The rebels told Western media that Saif al-Islam, a son of Qaddafi, has been captured.

The International Criminal Court later said it had received confirmation of his arrest.

Along with his father, Seif al-Islam has been charged by the ICC with crimes against humanity.

Another son, Mohammed, confirmed to Al-Jazeera that the rebels had him under house arrest.

News of what was happening in Tripoli sparked huge celebrations in Benghazi and elsewhere.

U.S. President Barack Obama said the future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people and the U.S. will continue to support Libya's transition to democracy.

"If Qaddafi cared about the welfare of the Libyan people, he would step down now," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

NATO described the situation in Libya as "very fluid", and said Qaddafi's rule was "crumbling".

NATO also said it was ready to work with the rebel National Transitional Council.

Britain said the scenes in Tripoli proved the end is near for Qaddafi.

Earlier in the day, the rebels overran a major military base defending the capital, carting away truckloads of weapons.

Rebels have been fighting six months now to end Qaddafi's 42-year rule.

compiled from agency reports

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/article/24303753.html

Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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