Gaddafi’s Grip On Tripoli Slipping Away

Poor neighborhoods in the Libyan capital of Tripoli openly defied Muammar Gaddafi on Saturday as his grip on power after 41 years of rule looked increasingly tenuous in the face of nationwide revolt.

Security forces had abandoned the working-class Tajoura district after five days of anti-government demonstrations, residents told foreign correspondents who visited the area.

Foreign journalists allowed into Tripoli for the first time since protests engulfed Libya saw the scars of rebellion during a closely-monitored guided press tour arranged by government officials: a burned police station with piles of ashes outside, walls covered with anti-Gaddafi graffiti and shattered glass and rocks in the streets.

The New York Times called the day’s events as “a bold play by Qaddafi to prove that he was firmly in control of Libya [that] appeared to backfire Saturday as foreign journalists he invited to the capital discovered blocks of the city in open revolt.”

The regime was reported to be distributing guns to civilian supporters and setting up checkpoints as armed patrols roved the terrorized capital today to put down a revolt in his main stronghold by residents inspired by the success of rebels elsewhere who hold about half of the North African nation.

Outside the capital, rebels held a long swath of about half of Libya’s 1,000-mile Mediterranean coastline where most of the population lives and even captured a brigadier general and a soldier as the Libyan army tried to retake an air base east of Tripoli. Several cities in the Gaddafi-held pocket of northwestern Libya around Tripoli also have fallen to the rebellion.

After days of fighting, the rebels had also reportedly taken Sabratha, an important town near Tripoli known for its ancient ruins. But so far, they have been unable to take Surt, a coastal town on the main route to Tripoli that is a Qaddafi stronghold and traditional center of his tribe, said the Times.

Militiamen and pro-Gaddafi troops were repelled when they launched attacks trying to take back opposition-held territory in Zawiya and Misurata in fighting that killed at least 30 people.

On the diplomatic front, President Barack Obama says Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi must leave the country now, the Associated Press reports. Obama made the comments to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a private telephone conversation Saturday as they discussed the violence in Libya.


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