Libyan rebels tighten grip on Tripoli

2011-08-22 07:40

Cairo – Libyan rebels tightened their control of the capital today as the whereabouts of the embattled leader Muammar Gaddafi remain unknown.

“We call on the remnants of the Gaddafi regime to surrender or they will be eliminated,” said Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a rebel commander.

“We tell those remnants that their fate will be like that of the collapsed (Gaddafi) regime,” he told broadcaster Al Jazeera from Tripoli.

The rebels changed the name of the Green Square in central Libya, where Gaddafi used to address his supporters, to the Square of Martyrs.

Fighting ended in the city after rebels seized key installations including the state television and radio building, Al Jazeera reported early today.

The rebels said they found no pro-Gaddafi forces at his compound in Bab al-Azazia in Tripoli.

The rebels were welcomed in Green Square last night by rejoicing people, some of whom were seen stomping their feet on a large portrait of Gaddafi.

Gaddafi’s whereabouts were not clear this morning.

Some rebel sources said he was still in Tripoli. Others said he had fled to his coastal hometown of Sirte.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama said the Gaddafi regime was falling and urged Libyan rebels to restore peace quickly.

“Muammar Gaddafi and his regime need to recognize that their rule has come to an end,” Obama said yesterday.

“He needs to relinquish power once and for all.”

He said the US had recognised the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) as the legitimate governing authority in Libya and called on it to restore order and respect for human rights.

“A season of conflict must lead to one of peace,” Obama said.

“The future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people,” the president said.

“Going forward, the United States will continue to stay in close coordination with the TNC. We will continue to insist that the basic rights of the Libyan people are respected.”

The rebels took control of Tripoli last night, a day after they advanced into the city and capping six months of armed conflict with the regime of Gaddafi, who had ruled the country for 42 years.

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