Libyan freedom fighters reach Tripoli


(AP, Reuters) — A convoy of rebels entered a western neighborhood of the city firing their weapons into the air, a witness said. Sky television said some fighters were only 8 km (five miles) from the center and were being welcomed by civilians pouring into the streets.

Euphoric Libyan rebels raced into the capital Tripoli on Sunday and moved close to center with little resistance as Moammar Gadhafi’s defenders melted away. Opposition leaders said Gadhafi’s son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, has been arrested.

Associated Press reporters with the rebels said the fighters moved easily from the western outskirts into the regime stronghold in a dramatic turning of the tides in the 6-month-old Libyan civil war.

“They will enter Green Square tonight, God willing,” said Mohammed al-Zawi, a 30-year-old rebel who entered Tripoli. Green Square has been the site of night rallies by Gadhafi supporters throughout the uprising.

Gadhafi’s rule of more than 40 years appeared to be rapidly crumbling.

Earlier in the day, the rebels overran a major military base defending the capital, carted away truckloads of weapons and raced to Tripoli with virtually no resistance.

Gadhafi acknowledged that the opposition forces were moving into Tripoli. In an audio message broadcast on Libyan state television after the rebels entered the capital, he warned the Tripoli would be turned into another Baghdad.

“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.”

He called on his supporters to march in the streets of the capital and “purify it” from “the rats.”

The rebels’ surprising and speedy leap forward, after six months of largely deadlocked civil war, was packed into just a few dramatic hours. By nightfall, they had advanced more than 20 miles to Tripoli.

Thousands of jubilant civilians rushed out of their homes to cheer the long convoys of pickup trucks packed with rebel fighters shooting in the air. Some of the fighters were hoarse, shouting: “We are coming for you, frizz-head,” a mocking nickname for Gadhafi. In villages along the way that fell to the rebels one after another, mosque loudspeakers blared “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great.”

“We are going to sacrifice our lives for freedom,” said Nabil al-Ghowail, a 30-year-old dentist holding a rifle in the streets of Janzour, a suburb just six miles west of Tripoli. Heavy gunfire erupted nearby.

As town after town fell and Gadhafi forces disappeared, the mood turned euphoric. Some shouted: “We are getting to Tripoli tonight.” Others were shooting in the air, honking horns and yelling “Allahu Akbar.”

Once they reached Tripoli, the rebels took control of one neighborhood, Ghot Shaal, on the western edge of the city. They set up checkpoints as a convoy of more than 10 trucks rolled in.

The rebels moved on to the neighborhood of Girgash, about a mile and a half from Green Square. They said they came under fire from a sniper on a rooftop in the neighborhood.

Sidiq al-Kibir, the rebel leadership council’s representative for the capital Tripoli, confirmed the arrest of Seif al-Islam to the AP but did not give any further details.

Inside Tripoli, widespread clashes erupted for a second day between rebel “sleeper cells” and Gadhafi loyalists. Rebels fighter who spoke to relatives in Tripoli by phone said hundreds rushed into the streets in anti-regime protests in several neighborhoods.

The day’s first breakthrough came when hundreds of rebels fought their way into a major symbol of the Gadhafi regime – the base of the elite 32nd Brigade commanded by Gadhafi’s son, Khamis. Fighters said they met with little resistance. They were 16 miles from the big prize, Tripoli.

Hundreds of rebels cheered wildly and danced as they took over the compound filled with eucalyptus trees, raising their tricolor from the front gate and tearing down a large billboard of Gadhafi.

Inside, they cracked open wooden crates labeled “Libyan Armed Forces” and loaded their trucks with huge quantities of munitions. One of the rebels carried off a tube of grenades, while another carted off two mortars.

“This is the wealth of the Libyan people that he was using against us,” said Ahmed al-Ajdal, 27, pointing to his haul. “Now we will use it against him and any other dictator who goes against the Libyan people.”

One group started up a tank, drove it out of the gate, crushing the median of the main highway and driving off toward Tripoli. Rebels celebrated the capture with deafening amounts of celebratory gunfire, filling the air with smoke.

Across the street, rebels raided a huge warehouse, making off with hundreds of crates of rockets, artillery shells and large-caliber ammunition. The warehouse had once been using to storage packaged foods, and in the back, cans of beans were still stacked toward the ceiling.

They freed several hundred prisoners from a regime lockup. The fighters and the prisoners – many looking weak and dazed and showing scars and bruises from beatings – embraced and wept with joy.

The prisoners had been held in the walled compound and when the rebels rushed in, they freed more than 300 of them.

“We were sitting in our cells when all of a sudden we heard lots of gunfire and people yelling ‘Allahu Akbar.’ We didn’t know what was happening, and then we saw rebels running in and saying ‘We’re on your side.’ And they let us out,” said 23-year-old Majid al-Hodeiri from Zawiya. He said he was captured four months ago by Gadhafi’s forces and taken to base. He said he was beaten and tortured while under detention.

Many of the prisoners looked disoriented as they stopped at a gathering place for fighters several miles away from the base. Some had signs of severe beatings. Others were dressed in tattered T-shirts or barefoot. Rebels fighters and prisoners embraced.

From the military base, the convoy sped toward the capital.

Mahmoud al-Ghwei, 20 and unarmed, said he had just came along with a friend for the ride .

“It’s a great feeling. For all these years, we wanted freedom and Gadhafi kept it from us. Now we’re going to get rid of Gadhafi and get our freedom,” he said.

At nightfall, the fighters reached Janzour, a Tripoli suburb. Along the way, they were greeted by civilians lining the streets and waving rebel flags. One man grabbed a rebel flag that had been draped over the hood of a slow-moving car and kissed it, overcome with emotion.

“We are not going back,” said Issam Wallani, another rebel. “God willing, this evening we will enter Tripoli.”

The uprising against Gadhafi broke out in mid-February, and anti-regime protests quickly spread across the vast desert nation with only 6 million people. A brutal regime crackdown quickly transformed the protests into an armed rebellion. Rebels seized Libya’s east, setting up an internationally recognized transitional government there, and two pockets in the west, the port city of Misrata and the Nafusa mountain range.

Gadhafi clung to the remaining territory, and his forces failed to subdue the rebellion in Misrata, Libya’s third-largest city, and in the Nafusa mountains. Since the start of August, thousands of rebel fighters, including many who fled Gadhafi-held cities, joined an offensive launched from the mountains toward the coast.

The fighters who had set out from the mountains three weeks ago rushed toward Tripoli on Sunday, start out at dawn from a village just east of the coastal city of Zawiya. Only a day earlier had the rebels claimed full control of Zawiya, an anti-regime stronghold with 200,000 people and Libya’s last functioning oil refinery.

Rebels said Saturday that they had launched their first attack on Tripoli in coordination with NATO and gunbattles and mortar rounds rocked the city. NATO aircraft also made heavier than usual bombing runs after nightfall, with loud explosions booming across the city.

On Sunday, more heavy machine gun fire and explosions rang out across the capital with more clashes and protests.

Government minders in a hotel where foreign journalists have been staying in Tripoli armed themselves on Sunday in anticipation of a rebel take over. The hotel manager said he had received calls from angry rebels threatening to charge the hotel to capture the government’s spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim.

Heavy gun fire was heard in the neighborhood around the Rixos hotel, and smoke was seen rising from a close by building.

“We are scared and staying in our houses, but the younger boys are going out to protect our homes,” said a woman who spoke to The Associated Press by telephone from the pro-rebel Tripoli neighborhood of Bin Ashour. She spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. She said a neighbor’s son was shot dead on Saturday night by Gadhafi troops as he tried to protect his street with a group of rebel youth.

Nuri al-Zawi, another resident of Bin Ashour, told the AP by phone that the rebels were using light arms to protect their streets, and in some cases were using only their bodies to fend off the Gadhafi troops riding in pickup trucks.

“We are used to this situation now. We are a city that is cut off from the world now,” he said.

The residents reported clashes in neighborhoods all over Tripoli as well as the city’s Mitiga military airport. They said they heard loud explosions and exchanges in of gunfire in the Fashloum, Tajoura and Bin Ashour neighborhoods.

Residents and opposition fighters also reported large anti-regime protests in those same neighborhoods. In some of them, thousands braved the bullets of snipers perched atop high buildings.

Laub and Hubbard reported from Janzour, Libya. Hadeel Al-Shalchi in Cairo contributed to this report.


19 thoughts on “Libyan freedom fighters reach Tripoli

  1. chafu bekale on

    God is Great !!!! run qadafi run dictator run cowared !!!!!kkkkk
    all dictators are the same they run they leave their familey behaind and run for their life what a shame to live ur owen son and run ? he calls the rebles a rat who is a rat know kkk
    ER next its gonna be zenawi he is gonna run but we will catch him and bareid hime a live !!!

  2. Abebe on

    My hat off to libyan rebels, they gave their lives for freedom finally they won. Something the Ethiopian opposition should learn from them. If you need freedom it is not going to come to your comfy house, you need to die for it.

  3. Meles' time is up! on

    Meles, I know you’re a subhuman who doesn’t believe in the Merciful God, but soon you will find out the power of God. What goes around comes around, you too will go down with shame like the bloody-hands despicable African dictators who have slaughtered their citizens and stolen their countries money. Ante Satan leba, your days are numbered! The tears of Ethiopian mothers and fathers will never go in vain. You, your wife and your cronies will pay! It might not be today or tomorrow, but you will pay for all your crimes!!!!!!!!!

  4. Muna on

    Elias we Ethiopians are the only was scared of AGAZI Dicators shame on all Oppositon at home and abroad they have no courage to do anything meaningful . I am so happy for Libyan people but i asm so ashamed of we Ethiopians we carried TPLF AGAZI for 21 years

  5. Observer on

    After Libya, Where will be the change next??

    Choose one of the the following

    a.Syria
    b.Yemen
    c.Baheran
    d.Addis Abeba
    e.All of the above

    Where will be Meles hid?
    a Adewa
    b.Juba
    c.Dedebit
    d.Albanian embassy
    e.Geza Gereselasie
    f.no where, He will be caught at Bole

  6. Ittu Aba Farda on

    This is what will happen to all tyrants in this IPAD and IPHONE era. This is a day of reckoning to all freedom lovers who have been longing for such a moment for a long time. A change was gonna come and long time coming. It is here for Libyans!!!! Ya’lla Libya!!!!
    If there is any warning sign for other dictators who are still in power be it in Africa or anywhere else, this is it. Gaddafi had a chance several months ago to save his Halawa laden tush but he shunned such an opportunity to yield in. It is too late now. The same opportunity is on order for others like him. But as clearly shown by Gaddafi and Mubarak, all our dictators are inherently hell-bent in staying power on the back of their countrymen. They never learn. They thought process is that they are better than the other guy. That is what they think and that is what they drive their fanatic followers to think and believe. That is what exactly one knuckle-held Woyane told me today. I just threw a curve ball at him asking when his main man will be over thrown. He told me that Ethiopia is different and there is much more democracy. You see…that is what exactly I am telling you. Tyrants never learn from others, i.e., from history. Do you think Saddam had any idea that his day on the gallows would be on order when he was calling names of those he planned to torture and let die agonizing deaths at a conference he called just for this purpose in 1979? No!!! Do you think this mongoose face from Dedebit is seeing the noose slowly coming toward his direction? The noose is draped in the blood of those almost 200 innocent people he ordered gunned down on a broad day light in 2005. But no, he is not like Gaddafi!! No he is not like Mubarak!!! Enough warning!!! The same goes to his cousin in Asmara!!!!
    This day one more time will strength my faith in the good ole’ USA and its allies that even though it will take them some time but they are out there sowing the seeds of good governance. It is just a matter of time and priority. I bet you Assad is in the bathroom right now for the tenth time since this evening. He has had enough warning. It is just a matter of time but it won’t be too long. Once a ‘leader’ of any country is hated and he proved that by killing his own people just for asking for more inalienable rights, his or her days in power will start counting down. Hitler, Mussolini, Siad Barre, Idi Amin, Saddam, Iyal-Al-Souk Bin Laden, Apartheid, Franco of Spain, Salazar of Portugal and on and on had an 1,000 year plan but they were relegated to the dustbin of human history. They all tortured and maimed. They killed innocent victims. Our Almighty Creator works in mysterious ways. He can take all our human power without warning and in no time. Gaddafi had scuds and piles of other heavy guns. Hitler had V1’s, V2’s and many sophisticated weapons. But God was on the Allied Powers side. He sniffed the last oomph out of Gaddafi’s war machine as he did from Saddam and Hitler. He is my hope through his instruments of just and fairness as the USA and its allies. My only hope that I am praying for every day, a day of just freedom on a platter for everyone to enjoy in the country I left more than 45 years ago.

  7. tezibt on

    How long did it take Libyan rebels to get to tripoli? How long will it take OLF to get to Addis? How long will it take ONLF to get to Addis ?

  8. So So on

    Qaddafi’s two influential son’s captured. Qaddafi’s green square captured and renamed as revolution square. The opposition preparing to form a coalition of tribes, cultures and regional assemblies in order to move towards a democratic and stable new Libya.

    They are NOT bragging and braying like some of our chauvinist Ethiopians, swearing, “one Ethiopia, old Ethiopia, one language, one ancestor,one religion, my way or NO way, NO tribes, NO cultures, NO ethnics, no, no, no…” and then wonder as to why they are forced to live in perpetual division, perpetual poverty, perpetual chaos and hopelessness. Let us learn from the new makers of new history for the new democracy of the 21st century.

  9. Assta B. Gettu on

    Libya and Ethiopia

    Libya is free of Kaddafi after many weeks of battle, but when will Ethiopia be free of Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi)? Who freed Libya from the 40-year rule of Dictator Colonel Kaddafi? The combined forces of the Libyan rebels and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) liberated Libya and would leave Libya for the Libyans to do the rest – the process of democratizing the Libyan people, the hardest one that involves furious competitions among the Libyan contestants for the democratic presidency in which the Libyans are not yet accustomed to.

    In the Libyan democratic process to change Libya to the rule of law, justice and genuine democracy, the few Libyan elites, the wealthy, and those who used to have special favors from the Kaddafi circles will be the great losers when their special treatments disappear with their former leader, Colonel Kaddafi. In a democratic Libya there will be no first class seat, first class food, first class medical treatment, and first class socialization for the Libyan elites any more. Every Libyan citizen will get the same treatment that may offend the Libyan elites and the highly paid wealthy Libyans during Kaddafi’s time.

    The Libyan oil revenue must be shared equally among the Libyan citizens; it should not be stashed into the pockets of the few powerful and wealthy Libyan elites. All the assets Kaddafi and his family had put outside Libya must be brought back to Libya through the help of the international communities to help the Libyans in their efforts to democratize their country. The old Kaddafi army must be swore in that it belongs to the Libyan people, that its duty is to protect the Libyan citizens, and that it does not belong to any wealthy Libyan elite or any dictator that may pop up. The army must crash any dictator that tries to take power from the Libyan people and brought him/her to justice and restore order. Whenever Libyan citizens express their grievances to their government through peaceful demonstration, the army must protect the civilians and should not prohibit them from marching in the streets of Tripoli in great number.

    Freedom of speech must be the rule of the day, and every Libyan citizen must be allowed to express himself freely without fear or harassment from the new government of new Libya. A Libyan citizen must be allowed to criticize his government, his imam, his religion, and anything he dislikes in his country. Open discussion about any issue, such as political, social, economic, and religious, must be encouraged by the democratically elected Libyan government. Land must be in the hands of each Libyan citizen, not in the hands of the Libyan government; therefore, there will be plenty of food for each Libyan citizen who work hard on his farm land and sell his farm products to the rest of the Libyan citizens at a reasonable price put by the market.

    The Libyan people have the right to sign a contract with any foreign country to run their oil; however, the Canadians, the Americans, and the British expect a payback from the Libyan new government for helping Libya free itself from her oppressive government, and that payback is to give the oil contract to the companies of these countries mentioned above.

    The new democratically elected Libyan government must bring a sweeping change not only to Libya but also to the corrupt organization of the African Union (OAU). It must ally itself with the few democratic states of Africa and avoid any camaraderie with the leaders of countries such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and the rest until they join the few democratic nations of Africa and overthrow their dictatorial regimes and restore the rule of law, human rights, democracy, and justice in their countries. The new democratically elected Libyan government must be a secular government and should not impose the Sharia law upon its citizens.

    Having said few things about Libya, it is time for me now to turn to my country, Ethiopia that has been waiting for over many decays for something to rain down from heaven like the biblical manna that fell down from above when the Israelites were traveling in the Sinai Desert. The Israelites had a good leader when they traveled for forty years through that arduous journey, eating manna from heaven and drinking water from the Rock of Ages. The Ethiopians have traveled for many years without adequate food to eat, clean water to drink, and a good leader, like Moses, to lead them in their long and exhausting journey. The Israelites after many years of internal conflicts with Moses, Aaron, Yahweh, and nostalgic feelings to go back to Egypt, finally (most of them) achieved their goals – reaching the Promise land of Canaan. The Ethiopians, having too many problems with their oppressive leaders, have not yet reached the promise land – the land of democracy. They are still journeying in the Sinai Desert – tyranny, oppression, inequality, and abuse of humanity.

    When will Ethiopia be free? Ethiopia that has been the beacon of freedom for the rest of the African states goes back to slavery when many of the African states enjoy the fruit of democracy and prosperity by rejecting their own home-grown oppressors and electing their own democratic leaders. What is holding back the Ethiopians from rebelling against their unjust government and taking the power into their own hands?

    The following factors may be some of the reasons that are holding the Ethiopian people from rebelling against their ruthless government:

    1. Language: Even though the Amharic language is the official language, the Woyanne government refused to encourage all Ethiopians to study the Amharic language so that they can easily communicate with one another. Woyanne knows the effectiveness of communication, and if all Ethiopians speak the Amharic language, they can easily understand each other, and if they can understand each other, they can easily rebel and overthrow the Woyanne government: therefore, Woyanne encourages each region to speak in its own language, not in Amharic language.

    2. Ethnicity: Ethiopians are divided by ethnicity; for example, each tribe favors its ethnicity: the Amharas favor the Amharas; the Oromos favor the Oromos; the Tegaru favor the Tegaru, and so on and so forth. Every tribe wants to have a leader from its own tribe; therefore, the Tegaru are holding power without the will of the majority of the Ethiopian people, and they will not give up their power to another tribe unless that tribe belongs to the Tegaru tribe. I am sure; Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi) may have told the Tegaru never to give up power to any other tribe; if they do, they will be at risk, and that is what Meles has been lecturing to his own tribe for twenty years. Hence, the Ethiopian multiplicity of ethnicity will never bring the Ethiopians together to drive out Meles from his power.

    3. Religion: Many Ethiopians are Christians who believe in the Holy Bible that says: “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority” (Hebrew 13:17). When the non Christians want to revolt against Meles, the Christians may say: “We should not revolt against him; we should respect him and obey him. Therefore, religious division may prevent a legitimate revolt against Meles the Dictator and the illegitimate ruler.

    4. Education: Most Ethiopians, mostly in the countryside, are illiterate; they do not know what democracy is, and they will never cooperate with those educated ones who want to oust Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi). When one asks a countryside person to rise up against the regime, one gets the following answer: “Let me please raise my children in peace. I do not want to betray the government and go to jail.

    5. Modern communication: If most Ethiopians are uneducated, they cannot use Internet, facebook or twitter. The North African and Middle East Revolution was mainly the outcome of modern communication such as Internet, facebook and twitter. The prospect of using such modern communication to bring change in Ethiopia is bleak at this time.

    6. Economy: All Ethiopians are poor except few, and those few educated and wealthy Ethiopians live outside the country; most of them live in the west. These people have the means to use modern communication and they have been posting their political rhetoric all over the Ethiopian media in the west, but they never go to the Ethiopian jungle to help some rebels financially and politically. There is also a big division among the various opposition groups; therefore it is not easy to have a combined force to stand up against the Woyanne leadership.

    7. Fear of the unknown: There are quite a number of Ethiopians who say that if Meles is enervated, Ethiopia’s historical enemies such as Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, and Egypt, may come in and invade the country; therefore, they prefer the statuesque to continue as it has been.

    In this case, we do not know when Ethiopia will be free; however, if few people start the revolution somewhere at the border between Sudan and Ethiopia or between Eritrea and Somalia, we in the diaspora my send some volunteer armies to the border or hire some mercenary armies, and when the fighting is intensified, NATO, not OAU, may offer us some military help. In order to get some military help from the west, Meles has to kill thousands of Ethiopian civilians who demonstrate on a daily basis in the street of Addis Ababa.

  10. Dedebit on

    Just be True Ethiopians in spirit and we can march to heavens in strides over the ashes of the evil force that is pervading our country as we speak truth to power. The question is not if or when the parasites are purged. The AgNazi elements are impotent and are lifeless . They exist only in our fearfull imagination! March forward without looking back!
    God Allah Bless Ethiopia.

  11. Mogodi Lobengula on

    #10.Assta B. Gettu,

    “Libya and Ethiopia

    Libya is free of Kaddafi after many weeks of battle, but when will Ethiopia be free of Meles Seitanawi (Zenawi)? Who freed Libya from the 40-year rule of Dictator Colonel Kaddafi? The combined forces of the Libyan rebels and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) liberated Libya and would leave Libya for the Libyans to do the rest – the process of democratizing the Libyan people, the hardest one that involves furious competitions among the Libyan contestants for the democratic presidency in which the Libyans are not yet accustomed to…” you wrote

    Certainly the process of democratization needs certain amounts of minimum sacrifices similar to the process of earning a living by individuals in a society some eight hours of daily going to work for a salary or even much more hours for business persons. For example even Town Hall as well as online forum discussions and debates on political, social, economic, etc. issues like here between Ethiopians sacrificing their precious times is a process of building new democracy for the new Ethiopia and increasing understanding along the way.

    All the diversities in Ethiopia, such as ethnic, religion, region, tribe, gender,languages,cultures, generational gaps, etc. are natures greatest gifts and treasure boxes if we only know how to handle them in a new 21st century way for the greater common good.

    And then again the solution for the new mutual understanding and removal of misunderstanding to build a new democratic new Ethiopia is simply a new EQUAL DISTRIBUTION OF POWER and justice for all. That we acknowledge and belong to various Ethnic, religious,tribal, regional,cultural,linguistic, etc. diversities and each asking for a share of its own piece of cake (slices of power) need not be seen as problem but as an opportunity for negotiating, compromising, giving, taking and arriving at the level of satisfactory but NOT optimal settlement of differences just like people do even in most democratic multiparty parliamentary daily debates and “battles”

    “A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone believes he has the biggest piece.”~Ludwig Erhard

    ሞጎዲ ሎበንጉላ

  12. Anonymous on

    Dear Mogodi Lobengula #14

    I like your analysis, but I have a problem with Ludwig Erhard’s statement. How can a person believe he has the biggest piece of the cake unless the cutter of the cake has cut the cake disproportionally? Of course, no one is complaining how big a piece each person has gotten; however, when one compares his piece of cake with the other fellow’s cake, he is going to find out his is smaller or bigger than the other fellow’s. It is true though in a compromise, no one is fully happy. One has to give up something in order the compromise to work.

  13. observer on

    #17

    I do not think it is an Editor error. Sometimes I see there is a default name.Check it before you submit.
    Anyway your comments are very informative .Thank you Assata

  14. Aweko Abede on

    IN 2011 Ethiopinas need to start the revolution in Addis Abeba, Gonder, Harer,Mekele, Nazerate, Gima, Awasa, etc… then

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