Monday, August 22, 2011

Live blog: NATO fears Gadhafi may strike at civilians

Live blog: NATO fears Gadhafi may strike at civilians
A portrait of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is burned outsdie the Libyan Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, on Monday.
August 22nd, 2011
09:29 AM ET
The 42-year rule of Moammar Gadhafi appeared on the verge of collapse Monday, with rebel supporters making it to the same Tripoli square where regime loyalists had congregated for month.
But in a possible indication that the fight is not over, celebrations in Tripoli's Green Square gave way to tension Monday morning after rebels told CNN that they'd heard Gadhafi army forces were heading their way. CNN could not confirm any movement of Gadhafi forces.
Here are some of the latest developments of the fighting in Tripoli, the latest installment of battles in a months-long uprising in Libya.
[Updated at 9:29 a.m. ET, 3:29 p.m. in Libya] Libyan rebels say they have detained a Libyan state television anchor who brandished a weapon on air and pledged to fight for Moammar Gadhafi.
Over the weekend, anchor Hala Misrati grabbed a handgun from the top of the anchor desk as news reports said that rebels were advancing toward the Libyan capital of Tripoli. She warned rebels trying to oust Gadhafi that staffers at government-run al-Libiyah would become martyrs if they had to.
[Updated at 9:24 a.m. ET, 3:24 p.m. in Libya] Rebel commanders told CNN's Sara Sidner they are working on a systematic and coordinated push to make sure they have control of the entire capital of Tripoli.
Sidner said that in Tripoli she is not seeing large number of pro-Gadhafi troops.
"Everyone was expecting thousands of members of Gadhafi's army to fortify where the stronghold and compound is," Sidner said.
Sidner said one rebel told her they were surprised to have not seen large tanks. People are wondering where the thousands of expected troops supporting Gadhafi are, or whether the "last stand" argument by Gadhafi was just an attempt to scare rebels.
[Updated at 9:19 a.m. ET, 3:19 p.m. in Libya]  "The latest dramatic development of the Libyan conflict apparently shows that the power in this country will be handed over to the rebel forces very soon. We hope that this will put an end to the protracted intra-Libyan bloodshed, which brought so many woes and so much suffering to this country's population and caused serious damage to the national economy," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
[Updated at 9:12 a.m. ET, 3:12 p.m. in Libya]  Rebels do not know whether Moammar Gadhafi is inside Libya, the head of the rebels' National Transitional Council said Monday.
"The real moment of victory is when Gadhafi is captured," Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the council's chairman, said.
[Updated at 9:09 a.m. ET, 3:09 p.m. in Libya]  U.S. and NATO officials say they remain concerned that forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi in Tripoli still might be able to stage a last ditch attack aimed at Libyan civilians.
“If there is a last ditch effort we want to protect civilians,” said a senior NATO official speaking on condition of anonymity because of sensitive intelligence matters.
The official said NATO is watching closely for any sign of a massing of Libyan government forces, or moving of weapons such as rockets or artillery. Striking such targets in the heavily populated areas of Tripoli could be a difficult problem because rebel forces, civilians and loyalists are mixed in among the entire population, he said.
[Updated at 8:54 a.m. ET, 2:54 p.m. in Libya]  The U.S. was able to spearhead the imminent collapse of Moammar Gaddfi's regime in Libya on the cheap, writes Mark Thompson on, using NATO to handle most of the war-fighting burden. And NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen thinks the Libyan operation could act as a blueprint for a less U.S.-centric way of waging war. Read the TIME blog.
[Updated at 8:49a.m. ET, 2:49p.m. in Libya] CNN's Matthew Chance tweets from Libya: @mchancecnn: Power cut in #Rixos !! If generator goes here, we will be cut off from outside world
[Updated at 8:21 a.m. ET, 2:21 p.m. in Libya]  Oil prices were mixed Monday as Moammar Gadhafi's regime appeared to be closer to tottering on the brink of defeat.
Brent oil, which is tied to the European market, dropped 1% to $107.55 a barrel, while U.S. crude prices rose more than 1% to $83.46 a barrel.
The disparity between the two prices is due to the fact that Brent will feel the more immediate impact from Libyan oil coming back online, whereas U.S. prices are more insulated. CNNMoney reports.
[Updated at 8:20 a.m. ET, 2:20 p.m. in Libya]  The International Organization for Migration sent a boat to Tripoli Monday to evacuate stranded migrants in the Libyan capital. The boat, which can carry 300 people, left the Libyan city of Benghazi Monday morning, the organization said in a statement. It is scheduled to arrive in Tripoli Tuesday, the organization said.
[Updated at 8:10 a.m. ET, 2:10 p.m. in Libya] French President Nicolas Sarkozy sharply criticized Moammar Gadhafi Monday, saying the Libyan leader's calls to continue fighting were "desperate and irresponsible."
"While the developments of the military situation on the ground and the many defections taking place in (Gadhafi's) camp confirm that the end of Gadhafi and his regime is now inevitable and near, the president condemns in the strongest terms the desperate and irresponsible calls of Colonel Gadhafi to continue fighting at all costs," Sarkozy's office said in a statement.
[Updated at 8:03 a.m. ET, 2:03 p.m. in Libya] Rebels on Monday afternoon pulled back from an area near Green Square - which rebels are renaming Martyrs' Square - to coordinate some sort of offensive in the city, although it was not immediately clear what they were planning.
Gadhafi's regime remained in control of at least three sites in the city - a hospital, a military barracks and the Rixos hotel, where international journalists are staying, said Guma El-Gamaty, the Britain-based coordinator for the rebels' Transitional National Council.
[Updated at 7:56 a.m. ET, 1:56 p.m. in Libya] The Libyan Embassy in Damascus, Syria, declared Monday that it was siding with the rebels' Transitional National Council government.
"What is happening in Libya today is the re-writing of the history of this country all over again through a revolution that has been baptized by the blood of its youth, and history will not forgive those who do not participate or support this great event that will not be repeated in Libya's modern history," the ambassador and staff of the embassy said in a statement.
[Updated at 7:43 a.m. ET, 1:43 p.m. in Libya] Rebel forces half a mile from Tripoli's Green Square began pulling back Monday after facing heavy resistance in the Libyan capital from troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.
[Updated at 7:26 a.m. ET, 1:26 p.m. in Libya] Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told Italy's Radio Rai radio Monday morning that Moammar Gadhafi's forces controlled only 10% to 15% of the capital city of Tripoli.
"The rest is in the hands of the rebels," he said.
[Updated at 7:15 a.m. ET, 1:15 p.m. in Libya] Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday that Britain will "soon release" frozen Libyan assets to help support the rebel government.
"At the UN, we will ... be taking early action in the Security Council to give  the new Libyan authorities the legal, diplomatic, political and financial  support they need," Cameron said. "We  will soon be able to release the frozen assets that belong to the Libyan  people."
[Updated at 7:12 a.m. ET, 1:12 p.m. in Libya] Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi must surrender, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Monday.
"Time is up. There are no alternatives to his surrender. If Gadhafi keeps calling for a civil war, he will be considered the only one responsible for the bloodbath," Frattini said in an interview with Italian news channel Sky Tg24.
[Updated at 6:22 a.m. ET, 12:22 p.m. in Libya] British Prime Minister David Cameron says the regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is falling apart and in full retreat.
[Updated at 6:12 a.m. ET, 12:12 p.m. in Libya] Mahmoud Jibril, the head of Libya's Transitional National Council, is expected to travel to Paris in the coming days to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy,  France's minister of foreign and European affairs, Alain Juppe, said Monday.
The anticipated visit follows a scheduled telephone conversation between the two men on Monday, Juppe said.
[Updated at 6:06 a.m. ET, 12:06 p.m. in Libya] Rebel fighters are clashing with forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi near the Rixos Hotel, one of the remaining Gadhafi strongholds in Tripoli, according to a report Monday by CNN's Matthew Chance, who is at the hotel.
The hotel, where CNN and other international journalists have been staying, is near Gadhafi's compound where fierce fighting is also raging between rebels and Gadhafi's forces, Chance said.
[Updated at 6:03 a.m. ET, 12:03 p.m. in Libya] Since NATO began operations in Libya on March 31, it has conducted a total of 19,877 sorties, including 7,505 strike sorties. NATO is operating under a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force to protect Libyan civilians.
[Updated at 5:48 a.m. ET, 11:48 a.m. in Libya] A rebel field commander told CNN Monday that fighters from Libya's western mountains were deployed to the country's northern coastal road, the main thoroughfare to Tunisia, to cut off the last of Moammar Gadhafi's forces in the region.
[Updated at 5:43 a.m. ET, 11:43 a.m. in Libya] South Africa's foreign affairs minister, Maite Nkoana Mashabane, told CNN Monday that there are no plans to send planes to Libya to evacuate Moammar Gadhafi or his family.
"I'm actually amazed that there is even an insinuation that we are facilitating the exit of anyone because I know for sure that there was never ever such a request," Mashabane later told reporters. "So we are amazed that there is this insistence that we will be evacuating people out of the country."
Mashabane said the position of South Africa and the African Union with regard to Libya has been clear.
"We have been saying consistently as the AU the solutions of the political problems of Libya should be made by Libyans themselves," Mashabane said.
[Updated at 4:48 a.m. ET, 10:48 a.m. in Libya] China is weighing in as Libyan rebels appear to be moving ever closer to toppling Moammar Gadhafi's 42-year rule.
Ma Zhaoxu, Foreign Ministry spokesman: "We've noticed the development in Libya. China respects the choice of Libya people. China hopes the situation in Libya gets stabilized as soon as possible and people can live a normal life there. China is willing to cooperate with the international society to play a positive role in the future reconstruction of Libya."
Here's a wrap-up of world leaders reactions.
[Updated at 4:48 a.m. ET, 10:48 a.m. in Libya] Dr. Norri Armeli, who has helped organize a civilian hospital near Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's home, told CNN Monday that he has heard the sound of heavy clashes in the area, including shelling, near the Bab Al Aziza compound.
Meanwhile, Gadhafi's forces in one Tripoli neighborhood are negotiating their surrender with rebels, said Jumma Ibrahim, a rebel military spokesman.
Ibrahim said the negotiations were occurring in the Tajoura neighborhood, one of the three areas in the Libyan capital where Gadhafi's forces remained in control. The neighborhood is home to a cardiac hospital, where Gadhafi's forces are asking to surrender, Ibrahim said.
[Updated at 4:29 a.m. ET, 10:29 a.m. in Libya] French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on Moammar Gadhafi to "avoid inflicting futile sufferings on his people" and order forces still loyal to him to lay down their weapons, according to a statement released Monday.
Sarkozy also praised the opposition and pledged France's full support to liberate the country, the statement said.
[Updated at 4:04 a.m. ET, 10:04 a.m. in Libya] There's been a bit of Internet buzz/rumors of Moammar Gadhafi possibly seeking safe transport to South Africa.
South Africa's foreign affairs minister, Maite Nkoana Mashabane, told CNN Monday that there are no plans to send planes to Libya to evacuate Moammar Gadhafi or his family.
Gadhafi's whereabouts are still unknown.
Guma El-Gamaty, a Britain-based coordinator for the Transitional National Council told CNN the opposition believes that Gadhafi is either hiding in Tripoli, has fled to southern Libya or fled to neighboring Chad or Algeria.
"Those are the only two neighboring country that have been showing support for him," El-Gamaty said.
[Updated at 3:32 a.m. ET, 9:32 a.m. in Libya] A quick recap of what rebel leaders are saying about embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's sons. Rebels claim three sons - Saif al-Islam, Saadi and Mohammed - were captured during their siege of Tripoli.
"As for the other four sons, we think they are either hiding or they have run away," said Guma El-Gamaty, the Britain-based coordinator for Libya's Transitional National Council.
[Updated at 3:15 a.m. ET, 9:15 a.m. in Libya] Guma El-Gamaty, the Britain-based coordinator for Libya's Transitional National Council, told CNN on Monday that "a great majority of the capital of Tripoli is under freedom fighters' control."
[Updated at 3:01 a.m. ET, 9:01 a.m. in Libya] More international reaction, this time from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who blasted NATO and the U.S. in a speech to supporters Sunday for "practically demolishing Tripoli with their bombs."
Chavez told supporters that NATO and the United States were bombing the Libyan capital "because they feel like it."
"Today they dropped I don't know how many bombs, and they are dropping them indiscriminately and openly," he said.
[Updated at 2:35 a.m. ET, 8:35 a.m. in Libya] Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron is calling on Moammar Gadhafi to step down to avoid further bloodshed, according to a statement posted on the minister's website late Sunday.
"It is clear from the scenes we are witnessing in Tripoli that the end is near for Gadhafi," the statement said.
It also said: "He has committed appalling crimes against the people of Libya and he must go now to avoid any further suffering for his own people."
[Updated at 2:17 a.m. ET, 8:17 a.m. in Libya] New details have emerged about a live telephone interview on Al Jazeera that purports to be with Mohammed Gadhafi – one of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi’s sons. During the call, gunfire could be heard and Mohammed Gadhafi uttered a declaration of Muslim faith that is given when one believes death is approaching.
"I'm being attacked right now. This is gunfire inside my house. They are inside my house," Gadhafi told the station.
Heavy gunfire was heard again and then the phone call was abruptly cut off.
Later, the head of the Transitional National Council told the station that Mohammed Gadhafi was not harmed. Al Jazeera reports that during the exchange of gunfire between rebels and Gadhafi's guards, one of his guards was harmed and a rebel fighter killed.
The Al Jazeera anchor then reported that according to the Chairman of the Transitional National Council Mustafa Abdul Jalil speaking to Al Jazeera, Mohammed Gadhafi and his family ‘have not been harmed, but their movements are under the control of rebel forces’.
[Updated at 1:46 a.m. ET, 7:46 a.m. in Libya]
From CNN Producer Jomana Karadsheh in Tripoli:  CNN Team hearing sounds of sporadic gunfire and explosions coming from the direction of Libyan Leader Muammar Gadhafi’s compound in Tripoli, Bab Al Azizya. Much of Bab al-Aziziya has been destroyed by NATO airstrikes, and a fight for the compound might be more symbolic in nature.
[Updated at 1:41 a.m. ET, 7:41 a.m. in Libya]

An unidentified resident of Tripoli tells CNN's Jonathan Mann that she is cautiously rejoicing. She calls the rebel advance on Tripoli and apparent downfall of the Gadhafi regime as "a dream come true." Gunshots can be heard in the background. It's unclear if it is fighting or celebratory fire. "It's still not safe for women to go out," she said. [Updated at 1:25 a.m. ET, 7:25 a.m. in Libya] Ali Suleiman Aujali, the Libyan rebel government's ambassador to the United States, told CNN Monday that the Transitional National Council is ready to move to Tripoli.
"TNC is going to run the country. They will move to Tripoli as soon as  possible," he said. "Of course they have to take care of the security of the city and, of course, our concern now is where is Gadhafi. We have to find out where is he."
He also told CNN he believes the Libyan people should decide whether to hand over Gadhafi's sons to the International Criminal Court.
[Updated at 1:01 a.m. ET, 7:01 a.m. in Libya] CNN producer Jomana Karadsheh tweets that gun fire can be heard nearby the Rixos hotel, where she and other international press are staying. Follow this Twitter list of CNN boots on the ground in Libya including @sarasidnercnn @mchancecnn @jomanacnn as well as CNN producers and correspondents following the developments.
[Updated at 12:51 a.m. ET, 6:51 a.m. in Libya] Ali Suleiman Aujali, the Libyan Transitional National Council ambassador to the United States, told CNN early Monday that Gadhafi brigades have raised the white flag in al-Brega.  "Libya is under the control of the TNC," he said.
CNN could not independently confirm his claim.
[Updated at 12:28 a.m. ET, 6:28 a.m. in Libya] The head of the Transitional National Council tells Al Jazeera that Mohammed Gadhafi, another son of the embattled Libyan dictator, was not harmed.
[Updated at 11:24 p.m. ET, 5:24 a.m. Monday in Libya] Among the scores of rebel fighters who advanced on  Tripoli are members of the "Tripoli Brigade," a group of rebel troops who'd once lived in the capital who might help navigate the city, reports Sara Sidner. But they weren't all professional soldiers, such as one IT worker who hadn't held a gun before joining the movement a few months ago.
[Updated at 10:21 p.m. ET, 4:21 a.m. Monday in Libya] U.S. President Barack Obama has said "the momentum against the Gadhafi regime has reached a tipping point."
"Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of a tyrant," Obama said in a statement released by the White House on Sunday night. "The Gadhafi regime is showing signs of collapsing. The people of Libya are showing that the universal pursuit of dignity and freedom is far stronger than the iron fist of a dictator.
"The surest way for the bloodshed to end is simple: Moammar Gadhafi and his regime need to recognize that their rule has come to an end. Gadhafi needs to acknowledge the reality that he no longer controls Libya. He needs to relinquish power once and for all. Meanwhile, the United States has recognized the Transitional National Council as the legitimate governing authority in Libya.
"At this pivotal and historic time, the TNC should continue to demonstrate the leadership that is necessary to steer the country through a transition by respecting the rights of the people of Libya, avoiding civilian casualties, protecting the institutions of the Libyan state, and pursuing a transition to democracy that is just and inclusive for all of the people of Libya. A season of conflict must lead to one of peace.
"The future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people. 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. And we will continue to work with our allies and partners in the international community to protect the people of Libya, and to support a peaceful transition to democracy."
[Updated at 10:14p.m. ET, 4:14 a.m. Monday in Libya] Opposition forces said early Monday that forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi could be planning to re-enter Tripoli's Green Square, where scores of rebel fighters had gathered. CNN could not independently confirm the claim.
[Updated at 10:09 p.m. ET, 4:09 a.m. Monday in Libya] A CNN iReporter captured video of a massive celebration in Freedom Square at the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Libya.
[Updated at 9:20 p.m. ET, 3:20 a.m. Monday in Libya]  The route heading to Tripoli's Green Square – where scores of rebel fighters had gathered early Monday - was "eerily quiet," with cars passing by checkpoints run by those loyal to the opposition, CNN's Sara Sidner reported.

[Updated at 9:09 p.m. ET, 3:09 a.m. Monday in Libya] Scores of rebel fighters gathered Monday morning in Tripoli's Green Square, the same place where supporters of Moammar Gadhafi had congregated for months, CNN's Sara Sidner reported. Celebratory gunfire rung out around the square, though rebels warned that snipers may still be in the area.
[Updated at 9:05 p.m. ET, 3:05 a.m. Monday in Libya] U.S. President Barack Obama has said he'll make a statement about Libya when his administration gets full confirmation of what is happening there.
[Updated at 8:57 p.m. ET, 2:57 a.m. Monday in Libya] The International Criminal Court will hold talks Monday with Libyan rebels on transferring Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, one of the two captured sons of embattled Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, to its custody, Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told CNN.
Moreno-Ocampo said the younger Gadhafi's arrest was "very important" for the war-crimes court, which issued a warrant for his arrest in June on charges of crimes against humanity.
"We'll discuss tomorrow the transition of authority, how to manage to surrender him," Moreno-Ocampo said.
Saif al-Islam Gadhafi is wanted for crimes against humanity in connection with attempts to put down the revolt against his father's four-decade rule in February.
[Updated at 8:19 p.m. ET, 2:19 a.m. Monday in Libya] Pictures are beginning to emerge early Monday from Tripoli's Green Square, where Col. Moammar Gadhafi's supporters had been gathering regularly, showing those opposed to the regime celebrating the rebel fighters' inroads. Joyous people could be seen celebrating, waving the rebel flag and even flashing the "victory" sign.
[Updated at 7:33 p.m. ET, 1:33 a.m. Monday in Libya] The International Criminal Court will hold talks with Libyan rebels on transferring Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, one of the two captured sons of embattled Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi to its custody, Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo tells CNN.
[Updated at 6:38 p.m. ET, 12:38 a.m. Monday in Libya] A rebel spokesman in Libya said Monday that rebels are in control of most parts of the capital.
"The rebel fighters are in control of most of the neighborhoods in Tripoli," said Jumma Ibrahim, adding that fighters have made it to the city's Green Square.
[Updated at 6:36 p.m. ET, 12:36 a.m. Monday in Libya] A second son of embattled Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, Saadi Gadhafi, has been captured by rebel forces moving into Tripoli, a rebel military spokesman told CNN early Monday.
The news comes about an hour after the rebels claimed they captured one of Moammar Gadhafi's other sons, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi.
Saadi Gadhafi, a businessman and onetime professional soccer player, helped set up an April CNN interview with a woman who claimed she had been raped by government troops. He later told CNN that the people behind the attack should be prosecuted.
[Updated at 5:54 p.m. ET, 11:54 p.m. in Libya] Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has called on Libyan Arab tribes to come to the defense of Tripoli and "cleanse" it of rebel forces, warning they would be "enslaved" by Western powers if they fail.
[Updated at 5:32 p.m. ET, 11:32 p.m. in Libya] A Libyan government spokesman said Sunday that some 1,300 people have been killed in fighting within the last 12 hours. "We expect the death toll to rise beyond anyone's imagination," Musa Ibrahim told reporters.
[Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET, 11:30 p.m. in Libya] A Libyan government spokesman warned of humanitarian disaster and a "massacre" in Tripoli as rebel forces advanced into the capital Sunday, but said forces loyal to Gadhafi were holding off the attacks.
Musa Ibrahim said Gadhafi's forces were being reinforced by volunteers coming into Tripoli and "can hold for much longer." But he acknowledged that rebel forces were pushing into the seaside capital, and told CNN that "a massacre will be committed in Tripoli if one side wins."
He denied reports that Gadhafi's bodyguards had surrendered, but repeated calls for a halt to NATO airstrikes and urged peace talks. NATO for months has conducted airstrikes in Libya under a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing force to protect Libyan civilians.
[Posted at 5:28 p.m. ET, 11:28 p.m. Libya] Libyan rebel fighters have captured Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of longtime strongman Moammar Gadhafi, a top rebel official said Sunday.
The announcement from Ali Said, general secretary of the Benghazi-based Transitional National Council, came as rebel forces pushed into the Libyan capital with the support of NATO airstrikes. There was no immediate reaction from Libyan government officials to the report.
Saif al-Islam Gadhafi emerged as a leading spokesman for his father in the early days of the revolt against Gadhafi's four-decade rule, which began with the seizure of Benghazi in February.
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