Heavy Fighting Continues In Tripoli; Qaddafi Remains Defiant
Sporadic, heavy fighting has continued in central Tripoli, despite claims by rebel fighters that they have most of the Libyan capital under their control.
Supporters of Muammar Qaddafi resumed attacks on rebel fighters who on August 23 stormed the Bab al-Aziziya complex, a symbol of Qaddafi's crumbling regime.
Qaddafi's troops could be seen fortifying their positions and flying Qaddafi's green flag within Tripoli's nearby Tarabulus Zoo Park, a vast forested area that appears to have become their last line of defense within the city.
Pro-Qaddafi snipers and troops with heavy artillery were firing from the park into the Bab al-Aziziya complex. Rebel fighters were responding by ordering artillery fire into the park.
The zoo park includes the Rixos Hotel, where more than 30 foreign journalists had been trapped indoors and guarded by heavily armed pro-Qaddafi gunmen for the past five days.
The journalists, who had been growing short of food and water, reported that they had been freed around midday on August 24.
Although opposition fighters seized the nearby Bab al-Aziziya complex on August 23 in an hours-long battle, Qaddafi appears to have escaped. In an audio message to his followers, Qaddafi said he had left the compound as a "tactical" move. He remains in hiding, vowing to fight "until victory or martyrdom."
In the defiant audio message, aired by a local television station, Qaddafi urged his supports to "eradicate the traitors and rats" from Tripoli.
"All the tribes in Tripoli, out of Tripoli, youths, senior people, women, men and armed committees must attack Tripoli and comb the areas and eradicate the traitors and rats," he said. "[The rebels] will slaughter you and desecrate your bodies."
Qaddafi also claimed that he had walked "discretely" in the streets of Tripoli on August 23 without anybody recognizing him and that he had seen young Libyans who were ready "to defend their city" against rebel fighters.
"The tribes in Tripoli and outside Tripoli, as well as residents of Tripoli who have no tribes, should purify their areas and the city of Tripoli," he said.
Libya's rebel council said it will give amnesty to any of Qaddafi's entourage who kill or capture him.
Council chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil also said a Benghazi businessman had offered a reward of 2 million Libyan dinars ($1.3 million) for Qaddafi's capture.
In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague described Qaddafi's remarks as "delusional statements." Hague said the world was now witnessing the "death throes" of Qaddafi's regime.
"The regime has clearly lost control of most of the capital and much of the country," Hague said. "I think it is time now for Colonel Qaddafi to stop issuing delusional statements and to recognize that that has happened, that control of the country is not going to return. He should be telling his dwindling and remaining forces now to stand down."
Mohammed Amin, a rebel field commander, confirmed that the last holdouts among regime loyalists in Tripoli appear to have entrenched themselves in the zoo park and other locations near the Bab al-Aziziya compound.
Meanwhile, a battle was reportedly raging about 650 kilometers south of Tripoli in the desert city of Sabha, where Qaddafi's troops remain in control of a major air-force base.
Members of Libya's opposition National Transitional Council were reported to be in talks with tribal leaders from Qaddafi's birth town of Sirte, another regime stronghold.
In eastern Libya, at the opposition stronghold of Benghazi, members of the National Transitional Council also reportedly were discussing how soon they can move their representatives to Tripoli.
Some opposition sources say the move to Tripoli could take place within days. The issue was being debated amid growing fears of a power vacuum in the capital.
compiled from agency reports
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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