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News, March 2011
Libyan Revolution Against Qadhafi Dictatorship
Libya declares country's official 'liberation'
REUTERS - Libya’s new rulers declared the country freed from Muammar Gaddafi’s 42 years of one-man rule on Sunday, saying the "Pharaoh of the times" was now in history’s garbage bin and a democratic future beckoned.
Tens of thousands who until this year’s revolt had known only Gaddafi’s all-powerful police state packed a square in the second city Benghazi to hear the interim National Transitional Council (NTC) announce Libya had liberated itself fully.
NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil kneeled in prayer after taking the podium and promised to uphold Islamic law.
"All the martyrs, the civilians and the army had waited for this moment. But now they are in the best of places ... eternal heaven," he said, shaking hands with supporters.
Some fear Jalil, a mild-mannered former justice minister, will find it difficult to impose his will on his fractious revolutionary alliance, pointing to the insistence of the city of Misrata on displaying the body of the former strongman three days after his death, in apparent breach of Islamic practice.
And there is international disquiet about increasingly graphic and disturbing images on the Internet of abuse of a body that appears to be Gaddafi’s following his capture and the fall of his hometown of Sirte on Thursday.
But the immediate reaction to Sunday’s announcement was jubilation.
"We are the Libyans. We have shown you who we are Gaddafi, you Pharaoh of the times. You have fallen into the garbage bin of history," said lawyer Abdel Rahman el-Qeesy, who announced the creation of a new government portfolio to deal with victims of the conflict.
"We declare to the whole world that we have liberated our beloved country, with its cities, villages, hilltops, mountains, deserts and skies," said an official who opened the ceremony in Benghazi, the place where the uprising erupted in February and which has been the headquarters for the NTC.
Cheering crowds waved the tri-colour flag.
Gaddafi, who had vowed to fight to the end, was found hiding in a drain after fleeing Sirte, the last bastion of his loyalists. He died in chaotic circumstances after video footage showed him bloodied and struggling at the hands of his captors.
With big oil and gas reserves and a six million population, Libya has the potential to become very prosperous, but regional rivalries fostered by Gaddafi could erupt into yet more violence that would undermine the authority of Jalil’s NTC.
"There is a yawning security and political vacuum in which brewing political disputes, factionalism and security problems pose a serious risk of derailing or prolonging transition," said Henry Wilkinson of Janusian security consultants in London.
In Misrata, people queueing for a chance to see Gaddafi’s body saw no reason for a rapid burial, apparently heedless of concern in Tripoli about how the NTC is perceived overseas.
"We brought our children to see him today because this is a chance to see history," said a man who gave his name as Mohammed. "We want to see this arrogant person as a lifeless body. Let all the people see him."
The declaration of liberation is intended to set the clock ticking on a process to set up a multiparty democracy, a system Gaddafi railed against for most of his 42 years in power.
In 2007 Gaddafi, whose "state of the masses" was seen by many Libyans as despotism, called democracy a sham in which people were "ridden like donkeys" by powerful interests.
Some analysts fear that without strong leadership the revolution could now collapse into armed infighting, preventing the country from ever attempting the novelty of the ballot box.
The lack of a clear plan for Gaddafi’s burial suggests to some analysts that there is justification for fears of a descent into leaderless turmoil.
An autopsy has been performed, and a medical source told Reuters that Gaddafi’s body had a bullet in the head and a bullet in the abdomen.
"There are multiple injuries. There is a bullet in the abdomen and in the brain," the medical source said.
The autopsy was carried out at a morgue in Misrata, about 200 km (130 miles) east of Tripoli. Local officials said Gaddafi’s body would now be brought back to the cold store at an old market in Misrata where it has been on public display.
The loosely disciplined militias that sprang up in each town to topple the dictator with the help of NATO air power are still armed. The places they represent will want a greater say in the country’s future, particularly the second and third cities Benghazi and Misrata, which were starved of investment by Gaddafi.
It was fighters from Misrata who emerged from a lengthy and bloody siege to play a large part in taking Tripoli and later caught Gaddafi.
Libya’s new leaders have a "very limited opportunity" to set aside differences, said interim prime minister Mahmoud Jibril as he announced he was stepping down on Saturday.
Jibril said progress for Libya would need great resolution, both by interim leaders on the National Transitional Council and by six million war-weary people.
But a field commander in Misrata worried that trouble was brewing.
"The fear now is what is going to happen next," he said, speaking to Reuters privately, as ordinary Libyans, some taking pictures for family albums, filed in under armed guard to see for themselves that the man they feared was truly dead.
"There is going to be regional in-fighting. You have Zintan and Misrata on one side and then Benghazi and the east," the guerrilla said. "There is in-fighting even inside the army."
There is some unease abroad over what many believe was a summary execution of Gaddafi. U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay has called for an investigation into the killing, but few Libyans share those concerns.
Arguments have arisen among Libya’s factions about what to do with the corpse, which has not been accorded the swift burial required by Islamic law and is beginning to decompose. Those viewing the body on Saturday were obliged to cover their faces with surgical masks.
Gaddafi’s surviving family, in exile, wants his body and that of his son Mo’tassim to be handed over to tribal kinsmen from Sirte. NTC officials said they were trying to arrange a secret resting place to avoid loyalist supporters making it a shrine. Misrata does not want his body under its soil.
The disputes within the NTC have delayed the announcement of an end to the war several times, but such worries are unlikely to be paramount in the minds of many Libyans as they celebrate the beginning of a new era in their country’s history.
The announcement of "liberation" will set a clock ticking on a plan for a new government and constitutional assembly leading to full democracy in 2013.
"We hope we will have an elected democratic government with broad participation," student Ali Abu Shufa said.
Gaddafi promoted tribalism to keep the country divided, he
said. "But now Gaddafi is dead, all the tribes will be united."
Libyan Revolutionaries Repel Qaddafi Dictatorial Forces, US-EU TV Networks Lose Battle to Al-Jazeera and Al-ArabiyaAl-Jazeerah, CCUN, Mar 6, 2011
News about the Libyan revolution against the dictatorial regime of Qaddafi are continuous to the extent that written news reports, such as those of AP, AFP, and Reuters below, cannot cope with the developments on the ground. Only the two Arab TV stations of Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya have been capable of reporting instantaneous developments there.
US-EU corporate TV networks have lost the battle and withdrew, not only because of frustrating their viewers by continuous commercials every few minutes, as Hillary Clinton observed. Rather, they have left their viewers least informed about Arab revolutions because the owners and controllers of these TV stations don't want their viewers to understand why Arabs are revolting. They don't want Americans and Europeans to question their governments about their support in money and arms to these brutal and dictatorial regimes.
The Zionist media in the US and EU don't want Americans and Europeans to know that the Arab dictators have been supported by the US-EU governments for no other reason than the subjugation of the Arab Nation to the Israeli Zionist regional superpower.
It seems that Zionists are losing more and more of their operatives, who have been supported to control Arab governments, as dictators. The Arab Revolution has cost them operatives Bin Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Qaddafi in Libya, and soon Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen as well as Maliki in Iraq. All indicators point to major changes in all Arab states, even in those states in which the regime may not be changed completely.
Videos from the website of the National Conference of the Libyan Opposition:
Rebels deny pro-Gaddafi forces' claims of major gains
By Catherine NORRIS TRENT in Tripoli (video)
News Wires (text)
Mar 6, 2011, AP -
Gunfire resounded around Tripoli Sunday as Gaddafi supporters celebrated claims made on state TV that government forces had retaken rebel-held cities. The rebels deny the claims and say they are pushing towards Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte.
Thousands of Moammar Gadhafi’s supporters poured into the streets of Tripoli on Sunday, waving flags and firing their guns in the air in the Libyan leader’s main stronghold. Earlier, the city woke to the crackle of heavy machine-gun fire that rattled the capital before dawn.
Libyan authorities said the unusually heavy gunfire that began around 5:30 a.m. was celebratory, claiming that government forces had retaken the oil port of Ras Lanouf, in central Libya, and the western city of Misrata. But residents in both cities said the opposition remained in control.
Libyan rebels shoot down a plane
Some 2,000 people were in the streets Sunday and hundreds drove past the Bab al-Aziziya military camp where Gadhafi lives, waving flags and cheering. Armed men in plainclothes were standing at the gates, also shooting in the air. It was not known if Gadhafi was in Tripoli. The early morning gunfire erupted in Tripoli as the conflict in Libya deepened, signaling an increasingly long and violent battle that could last weeks or months and veered the country ever closer to civil war.
The crisis in Libya has distinguished itself from the other uprisings sweeping the Arab world, with Gadhafi unleashing a violent crackdown against his political opponents, who themselves have taken up arms in their attempt to remove him from office after ruling the country for more than 41 years. Hundreds have been killed.
Gadhafi has drawn international condemnation for his actions. President Barack Obama has insisted that Gadhafi must leave and said Washington was considering a full range of options, including the imposition of a “no-fly” zone over Libya. On Saturday, both sides saw gains as they battled for control of the country.
Government forces in tanks rolled into Zawiya, the opposition-held city closest to Tripoli after blasting it with artillery and mortar fire, while rebels captured the key oil port of Ras Lanouf and pushed toward Gadhafi’s hometown. With the Gadhafi regime’s tanks prowling the center of the city of Zawiya, residents ferried the wounded from the fierce fighting in private cars to a makeshift clinic in a mosque, fearing that any injured taken to the military-controlled hospital “will be killed for sure,” one rebel said after nightfall.
Rebels in the east advanced from their eastern stronghold toward Sirte, setting the stage for fierce fighting with pro-Gadhafi forces who hold sway in the tribal area.
The rebels' dash to the west By Jody JENKINS
The storming of Zawiya, a city of some 200,000 people just 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli, began with a surprise dawn attack by pro-Gadhafi forces firing mortar shells and machine guns.
“The number of people killed is so big. The number of the wounded is so big. The number of tanks that entered the city is big,” the rebel in Zawiya said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared government reprisal. The rebels vowed to keep up the fight in the city.
Witnesses who spoke to The Associated Press by telephone with gunfire and explosions in the background said the shelling damaged government buildings and homes. Several fires sent heavy black smoke over the city, and witnesses said snipers shot at anybody on the streets, including residents on balconies.
The rebels initially retreated to positions deeper in the city before they launched a counteroffensive in which they regained some ground, according to three residents and activists who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
By midafternoon, the rebels had reoccupied central Martyrs’ Square while the pro-regime forces regrouped on the city’s fringes, sealing off the city’s entry and exit routes, the witnesses said. Members of the elite Khamis Brigade, named for one of Gadhafi’s sons who commands it, have been massed outside the city for days.
The pro-Gadhafi forces then blasted Zawiya with artillery and mortar fire in late afternoon before the tanks and troops on foot came in, firing at buildings and people, witnesses said. Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Qaid said “99 percent” of Zawiya is under government control.
The rebels fared better in the east, capturing the key oil port of Ras Lanouf on Friday night in their first military victory in a potentially long and arduous westward march from the east of the country to Gadhafi’s eastern stronghold of Tripoli.
Witnesses said Ras Lanouf, about 90 miles (140 kilometers) east of Sirte, fell to rebel hands on Friday night after a fierce battle with pro-regime forces who later fled. “Go to Tripoli!” one of the fighters yelled in English.
Libyan helicopters strike rebel force advancing toward capital, heavy ground fighting reported
By PAUL SCHEMM and MAGGIE MICHAEL Associated Press
Mar 6, 2011, 8:09 AM EST
RAS LANOUF, Libya (AP) --
Libyan helicopter gunships fired on a rebel force advancing west toward the capital Tripoli along the country's Mediterranean coastline Sunday and forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi fought intense ground battles with the rival fighters.
The opposition force pushed out of the rebel-held eastern half of Libya late last week for the first time and have been cutting a path west toward Tripoli. On the way, they secured control of two important oil ports at Brega and Ras Lanouf and by Sunday, the rebels were advancing farther west when they were hit by the helicopter fire and confrontations with ground forces.
Fierce ground battles were raging around the front line between two towns about 30 miles (50 kilometers) apart, Ras Lanouf and Bin Jawad to the west. Associated Press reporters at the scene said Gadhafi loyalists retook Bin Jawad, about 110 miles (160 kilometers) east of Gadhafi's hometown and stronghold of Sirte, which could prove to be a decisive battleground.
The reporters witnessed air attacks by helicopters on the rebel forces and heavy fighting on the ground. A warplane also attacked a small military base at Ras Lanouf and destroyed three hangars and a small building. Regime forces shelled rebel positions at Ras Lanouf with rockets and artillery. Ambulances sped toward the town and rebels moved trucks carrying multi-rocket launchers toward the front lines.
In Tripoli, the city of 2 million that is most firmly in Gadhafi's grip, residents awoke before dawn to the crackle of unusually heavy and sustained gunfire that lasted for at least two hours. Some of the gunfire was heard around the sprawling Bab al-Aziziya military camp where Gadhafi lives, giving rise to speculation that there may have been some sort of internal fighting within the forces defending the Libyan leader inside his fortress-like barracks. Gadhafi's whereabouts were unknown.
In rebel-held Misrata, residents said pro-Gadhafi forces attacked the city 120 miles (200 kilometers) east of Tripoli late morning on Sunday, shelling the downtown area with mortars and tank artillery.
They said the shelling began at 11:30 and that the rebels were fighting back with rocket propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns.
A doctor reached by The Associated Press in the city's main hospital said the facility's stores caught fire from the shelling and that fire fighters were now trying to put out the blaze.
The residents said the shelling was almost over by early afternoon but they had no reports on casualties or damage.
The residents and the doctor spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals.
The Libyan uprising that began on Feb. 15, inspired by rebellions in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, has been sliding toward a civil war that could be prolonged, with rebels backed by mutinous army units and arms seized from storehouses going on the offensive to try to topple Gadhafi's 41-year-old regime. At the same time, pro-Gadhafi forces have tried to conduct counteroffensives to retake the oil port of Brega and in the rebel-held city of Zawiya west of Tripoli - where bloody street battles were reported over the weekend.
The U.S. has moved military forces closer to Libya's shores to put military muscle behind its demand for Gadhafi to step down immediately. But Washington has expressed wariness about talk of imposing a "no fly" zone over the North African nation to prevent the Libyan leader from using his warplanes to attack the population.
At the same time, the U.N. has imposed sanctions, and Libya's oil production has been seriously crippled by the unrest. The turmoil has caused oil prices to spike on international markets.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, have died in the violence with tight restrictions on media making it near impossible to get an accurate tally.
The rebels headquartered in the main eastern city of Benghazi have set up an interim governing council that is urging international airstrikes on Gadhafi's strongholds and forces.
British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said Sunday that a "small British diplomatic team" is in eastern Libya to try to talk to rebels. But he would not comment on a report that special forces soldiers were captured by Gadhafi opponents when a secret mission to put British diplomats in touch with leading rebels went awry.
British Foreign Minister William Hague urged Gadhafi to hand over power and put an "immediate stop" to the use of armed force against Libyans.
In Tripoli, Libyan authorities tried to explain the unusually heavy gunfire that erupted before dawn by saying it was a celebration of the regime taking back Ras Lanouf near the rebel-held east and the city of Misrata close to Tripoli.
Despite those claims, AP reporters saw ongoing battles still in progress in Ras Lanouf hours after the claim of victory and residents of Misrata said the city remained in opposition hands.
After the gunfire eased in the early morning, thousands of Gadhafi's supporters poured into Tripoli's central square for a rally, waving green flags, firing guns in the air, and holding up banners in support of the regime. Hundreds drove past Gadhafi's residence, waving flags and cheering. Armed men in plainclothes were standing at the gates, also shooting in the air.
Over the weekend, residents of Zawiya, a city of some 200,000 people just 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli, said pro-Gadhafi forces stormed in to try to break the control of rebels over the area. Zawiya was the city closest to the capital held by the opposition.
Members of the elite Khamis Brigade, named for one of Gadhafi's sons who commands it, had been massed outside Zawiya for days. Residents said Saturday that a large number of tanks rolled into the city and many were killed and wounded in the counteroffensive.
Libya's Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Qaid claimed on Saturday that "99 percent" of Zawiya is under government control. The AP made repeated attempts to reach Zawiya residents by phone on Sunday, but the phones were turned off.
Britain's Sunday Times newspaper reported that up to eight British special forces soldiers, armed but in plain clothes, were captured while escorting a junior British diplomat through rebel-held territory in eastern Libya. It said the special forces intervention angered Libyan opposition figures who ordered the soldiers to be locked up on a military base.
The British Defense Secretary Fox said his government was in touch with the team in Benghazi but told BBC radio it would be "inappropriate" to comment further. When pressed on whether the U.K. diplomatic team was in danger, Fox reiterated that the government is in contact with the diplomatic team.
"It is a very difficult situation to be able to understand in detail," he said. "There are a number of different opposition groups to Colonel Gadhafi in Libya who do seem relatively disparate."
British Foreign Minister Hague repeated the international community's demand for Gadhafi to step down.
"Given the continued levels of illegitimate violence within Libya we call upon Colonel Gaddafi to put an immediate stop to the use of armed force against the Libyan people," Hague said in a statement. "He must hand over power without delay to a government which fully recognizes the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people," he added.
"The U.K. reiterates its support for the transition to a government that will deliver greater democracy, justice, transparency, human rights and accountability in Libya. We understand the desire of Libyans to enjoy the freedoms which have been denied to them for many years and support them in this endeavor," he said.
Michael reported from Tripoli.
Gaddafi launches counter-offensive on Libya rebels
Credit: Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah
By Maria Golovnina and Michael Georgy
TRIPOLI | Sun Mar 6, 2011 8:50am EST
TRIPOLI (Reuters) -
Libyan troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi launched counter-offensives on three rebel-held towns on Sunday as the popular uprising escalated into open warfare.
The resilience of Gaddafi's forces in the face of the widespread insurrection and their ability to counter-attack will increase fears that Libya is heading for a protracted civil war rather than the swift revolutions seen in Tunisia and Egypt.
Gaddafi's troops, backed by tanks, artillery, fighter jets and helicopters attacked the towns of Zawiyah and Misrata, to the immediate west and east of Tripoli, and the oil port city of Ras Lanuf, 660 km (410 miles) east of the capital.
Government spokesmen said Gaddafi's forces won a series of swift victories, but many of the towns remained in rebel hands, Reuters reporters at the scene and witnesses said.
Gaddafi loyalists were nevertheless jubilant over the reports and automatic gunfire reverberated around the capital.
"These are celebrations because government forces have taken control of all areas to Benghazi and are in the process of taking control of Benghazi," spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said, referring to Libya's rebel-controlled second largest city situated in the far east.
While Benghazi remained firmly in rebel hands, government troops pushed rebels out of the town of Bin Jawad which they had captured on Saturday, back to Ras Lanuf.
One fighter returning wounded to Ras Lanuf from the frontline was asked what he had seen. He replied: "Death."
Rebels surrounded by Gaddafi troops near the center of Zawiyah, 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli, faced another onslaught on Sunday after repelling two major assaults by tanks and infantry the day before.
"This morning, there was a new attack, bigger than yesterday. There were one and a half hours of fighting ... Two people were killed from our side and many more injured," spokesman Youssef Shagan said by telephone.
"We are still in full control of the square. Now it is quiet," he added.
Elite forces under Gaddafi's son Khamis also launched an assault on Misrata, 200 km (125 miles) east of the capital.
"Very, very heavy fighting is taking place now at the western entrance of the town. The fighting started about an hour ago after an attack by brigades belonging to Khamis," said the resident, called Mohamed.
"They are destroying everything they find. They are using artillery and tanks. Revolutionaries are doing their best to prevent them from reaching the center of the town," he said.
Doctors at Ras Lanuf hospital said two dead and 22 wounded had arrived from the fighting. A French journalist was shot in the leg, a doctor said, and four rebels were seriously wounded and unlikely to survive.
But the rebels said they had shot down a helicopter. Three rebel fighters speaking at Ras Lanuf said they had seen the helicopter fall into the sea. A Reuters correspondent was shown the wreckage of a warplane on Saturday that rebels said they had shot down. Several witnesses in Bin Jawad said there were many dead and wounded that could not be reached. One man said he had seen a civilian building hit by a bomb.
"The wounded people shouted at us to get their children out. We left the dead," said Khaled Abdul Karim, a rebel fighter.
BRITISH TROOPS SEIZED
Britain's Sunday Times reported that rebels had seized a British SAS special forces unit of up to eight soldiers escorting a junior diplomat in eastern Libya on a secret diplomatic mission to make contact with opposition leaders.
The SAS intervention angered opposition figures who fear Gaddafi could use evidence of Western military intervention to sway patriotic support away from the uprising, according to the London paper.
"I can confirm that a small British diplomatic team is in Benghazi. We are in touch with them, but it would be inappropriate for me to comment further," British Defense Secretary Liam Fox told the BBC.
Despite repeated questions, Fox refused to say whether the group was in danger or was being held captive.
"We want to clearly understand what the dynamic is there because we want to be able to work with them to ensure the demise of the Gaddafi regime, to see a transition to greater stability in Libya and ultimately to more representative government," Fox said.
In a French newspaper interview, Gaddafi said he was embroiled in a fight against Islamist "terrorism" and expressed dismay at the absence of support from abroad.
"I am surprised that nobody understands that this is a fight against terrorism," Gaddafi told le Journal du Dimanche.
"Our security services cooperate. We have helped you a lot these past few years. So why is it that when we are in a fight against terrorism here in Libya no one helps us in return?"
Western leaders have denounced what they call Gaddafi's brutal response to the uprising, and the International Criminal Court said he and his inner circle face investigation for alleged targeting of civilians by his security forces.
But the opposition, while assembling an inspired fighting force, has failed to produce a convincingly clear leadership, a weakness Gaddafi hopes to exploit as the struggle continues.
The International Energy Agency said the revolt had blocked about 60 percent of Libya's 1.6 million bpd (barrels per day) oil output. The drop, due largely to the flight of thousands of foreign oil workers, will batter the economy and have already jacked up crude prices abroad.
(Additional reporting by Michael Georgy in Tripoli, Alexander Dziadosz in Ajdabiya, Mohammed Abbas in Bin Jawad, Stefano Ambrogi in London, Nick Vinocur in Paris and Tom Pfeiffer in Benghazi; Writing by Mark Heinrich and Jon Hemming; Editing by Michael Roddy)
Related Reuters News
Gaddafi's nurse says he is in good health 6:21am EST
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