Rebels Take Misurata, Tripoli Reinforces

Zawiya Massacre: 100+ Gunned Down

[Ed. Note: The most recent update is here.

Previous updates, from earliest to most recent, are here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

For still more news, commentaries, analyses, maps, photographs and videos, click here.]

Massacre in Zawiyah
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Libya – Map – Control of Key Cities Feb. 23-24

UPDATE 22:58 GMT: Situation in Zawiya updated to “fighting on the outskirts”

UPDATE 22:18 GMT: Reports coming in that Zawiya is “under attack” right now. Not sure how they’re defining that yet.

UPDATE 21:55 GMT: The US State Department has issued a statement warning Americans “against travel to Libya.” [Ed. Note: Holy crap! They’re just getting to this now?]

Fatima, one of the innocents.
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Video of the “underground prison” discovered in Benghazi has been posted.
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UPDATE 21:20 GMT: Al Jazeera’s lead story tonight will be that former Libyan Justice Minister [Ed. Note: is that an oxymoron or what?] Mustafa Abdel Galil is saying that Gaddafi has biological and chemical weapons and will not hesitate to use them. [Ed. Note: That could be a red-line for the western powers. The US and its allies are well-aware of Gaddafi’s stockpile. See previous updates for that.]

UPDATE 21:03 GMT: Osama’s Tweet is making the rounds:

UPDATE 20:53 GMT: Via Twitter, Libyan bloggers are reporting that text messages sent to residents of Tripoli in the past 30 minutes by Libyana, the country’s leading cellphone provider, advised them that a local cleric issued a fatwa against watching television channels “like Al Jazeera,” that incite bloodshed.

UPDATE 19:50 GMT: AFP is quoting a Tunisian official saying that nearly 20,000 people have fled Libya into Tunisia over the past four days.

UPDATE 19:42 GMT: People in Benghazi are now tidying up.

UPDATE 18:42 GMT: The Swiss government has announced its intention to locate and freeze any Gaddafi assets that may be held by its banks.

UPDATE 18:36 GMT: The switch to the rebel side by Major General Suleiman Mahmoud is seen as pivotal by Tim Niblock, a professor of Middle East politics at Exeter University who has known Mahmoud for years since supervising his daughter’s Ph.D work. “Mahmoud is a key person because he’s been the military commander of eastern Libya more or less since Gaddafi came to power,” Niblock told The Wall Street Journal. “I think his ambitions at the moment would be to work to bring together some kind of coalition which enables a transitional government to work until there are elections. I doubt he’d want political power, but he would probably have to be a key person in any development.” Niblock said he believed there were already contacts taking place between the eastern rebel leaders and army commanders in the west of the country. “They all know each other very well and the intention would be to effect a more rapid and less bloody end to the regime. The Libyan army on the whole resents the way it’s been under-resourced and displaced by the security battalions.”

UPDATE 18:31 GMT: Reuters is reporting that Libya’s Quryna newspaper says 23 people have been killed and 44 wounded in Zawiya.

UPDATE 17:15 GMT: CNN’s Ben Wedeman tweeted: “Libyan Air Force pilot tells me that a colleague in base near #Tripoli says pilots executed for refusing regime orders.”


UPDATE 17:10 GMT: Rebels have occupied the center of a town near the capital and are laying home-made traps to fend off counter-attacks by pro-Gaddafi forces, a witness told Reuters. Other witnesses Reuters cited said spoke of heavy gunfire and chaotic scenes in the town of Zawiya.

UPDATE 17:04 GMT: First edition of Benghazi’s new newspaper (click to enlarge)

UPDATE 16:53 GMT: Tweet from #TravellerW: “Gaddafi says demonstrators are high on LSD. Introducing the new #WordOfTheDay: Rave+Revolution = #RAVOLUTION”

UPDATE 16:49 GMT: NBC’s Richard Engel, on the subject of Gaddafi’s stockpile of mustard gas, tweets: “US Never completely comfortable with his declaration of what he had”

UPDATE 16:33 GMT: AJE just reported that “Libya’s state TV, in what appears to be a first, is now airing urgent captions in English.” [Ed. Note: That is extremely strange…would like to know what is being captioned.]

UPDATE 16:30 GMT: Multiple respected sources now estimating a death toll of 2000 killed so far.

UPDATE 16:24 GMT: Muammar Gaddafi still has significant stockpiles of mustard gas and other chemical-weapons agents, raising fears in Washington about what could happen to them — and whether they may be used — as Libya slides further into chaos, the Wall Street Journal is reporting. “When you have a guy who’s as irrational as Gaddafi with some serious weapons at his disposal, it’s always a concern,” said a US official. “But we haven’t yet seen him move to use any kind of mustard gas or chemical weapon” during the unrest.

UPDATE 15:24 GMT: Also from BBC: An editor there points out that Gaddafi’s speech included the line: “Zawiya is slipping away from us.” BBC says that there reports suggest Zawiya, west of Tripoli, has been the subject of fighting. CNN reported earlier today that the city has fallen to rebels. Zawiya is just 25 miles west of Tripoli.

UPDATE 15:16 GMT: A source has told the BBC that his brother was a witness to the Zawiya massacre. He said that pro-Gaddafi forces came into the square with machine guns and “started shooting the people who didn’t have any kind of weapon to defend themselves. The soldiers were using Kalashnikovs and rocket propelled grenades.”

UPDATE 15:12 GMT: Reuters reported earlier today that Saudi Arabia has said it is “ready and willing” to make up for any shortfall in oil production resulting from the Libyan turmoil.

UPDATE 14:22 GMT: The big to-do about Gaddafi taking to the airwaves was a big ho-hum. In a call-in, Gaddafi told state TV that Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda are to blame for the protests. This is “not people’s power, it’s international terrorism led by al-Qaeda.” Gaddafi also repeated his assertion that Libya’s youth were being duped with drugs and alcohol to take part in “destruction and sabotage.” He

UPDATE 14:16 GMT: AJE reports a witness from Zawiya is telling them at least 100 people had been killed when soldiers fired at protesters with heavy fire arms for five hours this morning. “The shooting was direct to the people. They shot the people in the head or in the chest,” he said.

UPDATE 14:02 GMT: The New York Times is saying pro-Gaddafi forces are reported to be striking back in several cites surrounding Tripoli, as rebels crept closer to the capital and defections of military officers multiplied. In Sabratha, about 50 miles west of the capital where a government crackdown has been under way for several days, gunshots rang out as military troops filled the town, a witness said.

UPDATE 14:00 GMT: A witness told Associated Press that the minaret of a mosque in Zawiya, a city 30 miles west of Tripoli where protesters had claimed victory, was blasted by heavy weapons in a morning attack, killing or wounding protesters who had been using the building as a refuge.

UPDATE 13:54 GMT: We’re waiting for yet another speech from Gaddafi. Gathering updates in the meantime.

UPDATE 13:53 GMT: Misurata, Libya’s third largest city after Tripoli and Benghazi, fell to rebel forces overnight. Misrata is 130 miles (210 km) east of Tripoli.

Libya – Map – Areas of Conflict – Feb. 24 (click for full size)


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