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Libyan Rebels Near Final Victory

Libyan Rebels RejoiceLibyan rebels have nearly completely taken over Tripoli, the capital. As of yesterday, they battled Muammar Gaddafi’s forces, took control of state television and captured three of the leader’s sons. Their efforts have brought them very close to ending the civil war and more than 40 years of rule under Gaddafi’s family. Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC), said at a news conference that the real victory will be when the nation’s leader is captured.

Although rebel officials say that it’s possible Gaddafi could have fled to southern Tripoli or neighbouring Algeria or Chad, he could very well be in the Libyan capital. According to Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan, the US government believes he is at least still in the country. He said yesterday that they don’t have any information that he has left. UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon says that they have been trying to contact him. He also called the events in Libya a testament of the determination and courage of the country’s people in seeking a democratic and free future.

Even though the rebels seem to be in reach of gaining official control of Libya, they were still fiercely fighting for some parts of the capital. Guma El-Gamaty, the NTC’s Britain-based coordinator, says that most of Tripoli is under the control of freedom fighters. Rebel military spokesman Jumma Ibrahim said Gaddafi’s forces near a hospital in Tajoura were negotiating a surrender. On Monday afternoon, fierce fighting was heard at the Rixos hotel, which is near Gaddafi’s compound (Bab al-Aziziya) and where international journalists are being held. Explosions and gunfire were heard from the compound earlier, and it’s been reported that NATO airstrikes have destroyed most of it. They are concerned about snipers on building tops as well.

NATO and US officials said they are worried that loyal Gaddafi forces could stage a last-minute attack against the public. A senior NATO official said that they want to protect civilians if this happens. They are watching closely for any sign that the Libya government’s forces are gathering or moving weapons. A US official warned that the leader could still be able to give orders to troops through limited communications. However, it’s not clear how much he is in control of.

Another thing that isn’t clear is what the rebels plan to do with the three of Gaddafi’s sons they have in custody, nor is it clear what they do with the leader himself upon capture. The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and the head of military intelligence, Abdullah al-Senussi. Chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo talked with NTC members about safeguarding civilians in Libya, with future discussions to include the surrender of the three sons.

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