Libyan Rebels Control Much Of Capital, Claim Defeat Of Qaddafi

The events in Libya over the past 48 hours have been very fast-moving and, thanks to the fact that we don’t have the kind of on-the-ground coverage we had in Egypt back in April, often been based more in rumor than in fact. At various times, it’s been reported over the past two days that Col. Qaddafi was dead, that he had fled to Tunisia, Algeria, or Venezuela, that he had been captured, and that he his home was under siege while he talked on the phone with al-Jazeera. Those last two rumors turned out to be in reference to Qaddafi’s sons, and Qaddafi himself still seems to be in control of some forces, but it’s clear that the end is near:

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s grip on power dissolved with astonishing speed on Monday as rebels marched into the capital and arrested two of his sons, while residents raucously celebrated the prospective end of his four-decade-old rule.

In the city’s central Green Square, the site of many manufactured rallies in support of Colonel Qaddafi, jubilant Libyans tore down posters of him and stomped on them. The rebel leadership announced that the elite presidential guard protecting the Libyan leader had surrendered and that their forces controlled many parts of the city, but not Colonel Qaddafi’s leadership compound.

The National Transitional Council, the rebel governing body, issued a mass text message saying: “We congratulate the Libyan people for the fall of Muammar Qaddafi and call on the Libyan people to go into the street to protect the public property. Long live free Libya.”

Officials loyal to Colonel Qaddafi insisted that the fight was not over, and there were clashes between rebels and government troops early on Monday morning. But NATO and American officials said that the Qaddafi government’s control of Tripoli, which had been its final stronghold, was now in doubt.

President Obama said Sunday night that Colonel Qaddafi and his inner circle had “to recognize that their rule has come to an end” and called on Colonel Qaddafi “to relinquish power once and for all.” He also called on the National Transitional Council to avoid civilian casualties and protect state institutions as it took control of the country.

“Tonight, the momentum against the Qaddafi regime has reached a tipping point,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of a tyrant. The Qaddafi regime is showing signs of collapsing. The people of Libya are showing that the universal pursuit of dignity and freedom is far stronger than the iron fist of a dictator.”

This morning, al-Jazeera is reporting that the final clash between rebels and pro-Qaddafi forces appears to be taking place in the area around the leader’s compound:

Heavy fighting and gun battles have broken out in areas of Tripoli after opposition fighters gained control overnight of much of the Libyan capital in their battle to end Muammar Gaddafi’s decades-long rule.

Clashes erupted on Monday after tanks left Bab Azaziya, Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli, to confront the rebel assault

Many of the streets in the centre of the city, where anti-government supporters had celebrated hours earlier, were abandoned as pockets of pro-Gaddafi resistance and the presence of snipers and artillery fire made the area dangerous.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, who advanced into the city with rebel fighters overnight, said the security situation in the city was “tenuous.”

“There are some Gaddafi forces still putting up a fight,” our correspondent said

There has been no word on the location of Gaddafi himself. The Libyan leader has delivered a series of angry and defiant audio messages in recent days, vowing not to surrender.

In the most recent address, he acknowledged that opposition forces were moving into Tripoli and warned the city would be turned into another Baghdad. He also called on Libya’s tribes to rally to the city’s defence.

“How come you allow Tripoli, the capital, to be under occupation once again?” he said. “The traitors are paving the way for the occupation forces to be deployed in Tripoli.”

Qaddafi’s whereabouts remain unknown. He says he’s still in Tripoli, but he could just as easily have fled to the southern desert region near Chad and Mali, where his tribal support is strongest. In any case, it’s clear that his 42 year old regime is effectively ended. What comes after it is another question, and not necessarily one we’ll like the answer to.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. anjin-san says:

    What comes after it is another question, and not necessarily one we’ll like the answer to.

    Gosh Doug, you mean there are no guarantees in life? That’s deep.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Imagine my surprise that an Obama triumph ends up over here in the small print on OTB.

  3. Hey Norm says:

    First OBL and now Qadaffi. I guess it’s just me but that seems like a pretty good record for that guy that spends all his time leading from behind – eh, Doug? Maybe that word doesn’t mean what you think that word means.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    @Hey Norm:
    Apparently NATO bombs have struck OTB. Sudden silence descended when it became clear that Messrs. Mataconis and to a lesser extent Joyner have been underestimating the President and overestimating the difficulty level of this mini-war.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: Nah, just swamped with Libya-related stuff at work. I penned a piece for The Atlantic by 9:15 and it’s been accepted. Just waiting for it to go online and I’ll post a pointer.

  6. Hey Norm says:

    @ MR..
    Not that Doug or James need me to defend them…but I think a whole lot of people under-estimate this President…while he is busy getting stuff done.
    Anyone can stand on a pile of rubble, three days after the fact, and yell through a bullhorn.
    Anyone can put on a flght-suit and a codpiece and strut around the deck of carrier like a peacock.
    And, I suppose, anyone could mistake that for leadership.