Rebels enter Tripoli, crowds celebrate in streets

-Gaddafi sons arrested

AL-MAYA/TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Rebel fighters streamed  into Tripoli as Muammar Gaddafi’s forces collapsed and crowds  took to the streets to celebrate, tearing down posters of the  Libyan leader.

A convoy of rebels entered a western neighbourhood of the  city, firing their weapons into the air. Rebels said the whole  of the city was under their control except Gaddafi’s Bab  Al-Aziziya-Jazeera stronghold, according to al-Jazeera  Television.
Gaddafi made two audio addresses over state television  calling on Libyans to fight off the rebels.

Libyan rebel fighters and civilians ride through the town of Maia celebrating after rebels pushed to within 25 kms (15 miles) of Tripoli, August 21, 2011. REUTERS/Bob Strong
Libyan rebel fighters and civilians ride through the town of Maia celebrating after rebels pushed to within 25 kms (15 miles) of Tripoli, August 21, 2011. REUTERS/Bob Strong

“I am afraid if we don’t act, they will burn Tripoli,” he  said. “There will be no more water, food, electricity or  freedom.”
Gaddafi, a colourful and often brutal autocrat who has ruled  Libya for over 40 years, said he was breaking out weapons stores  to arm the population. His spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, predicted  a violent reckoning by the rebels.
“A massacre will be committed inside Tripoli if one side  wins now, because the rebels have come with such hatred, such  vendetta…Even if the leader leaves or steps down now, there  will be a massacre.”
NATO, which has backed the rebels with a bombing campaign,  said the transition of power in Libya must be peaceful.
After a six-month civil war, the fall of Tripoli came  quickly, with a carefully orchestrated uprising launched on  Saturday night to coincide with the advance of rebel troops on  three fronts. Fighting broke out after the call to prayer from  the minarets of the mosques.
Rebel National Transitional Council Coordinator Adel Dabbechi  confirmed that Gaddafi’s younger son Saif Al-Islam had been  captured. His eldest son Mohammed Al-Gaddafi had surrendered to  rebel forces, he told Reuters.
Only five months ago Gaddafi’s forces were set to crush the  rebel stronghold of Benghazi, the leader warning in a television  address that there would be “no mercy, no pity” for his  opponents. His forces, he said, would hunt them down “district  to district, street to street, house to house, room to room.”
The United Nations then acted quickly, clearing the way for  creation of a no-fly zone that NATO, with a campaign of bombing,  used ultimately to help drive back Gaddafi’s forces.
“It’s over. Gaddafi’s finished,” said Saad Djebbar, former  legal adviser to Libyan government.
Al Jazeera television aired images of people celebrating in  central Tripoli and tearing down posters of Gaddafi, which had  dominated Libyan cities for decades.
In Benghazi in the east, thousands gathered in a city-centre  square waving red, black and green opposition flag as news  filtered through of rebel advances into Tripoli.
“It’s over!” shouted one man as he dashed out of a building,  a mobile telephone clutched to his ear. Celebratory gunfire and  explosions rang out over the city and cars blaring their horns  crowded onto the streets. Overhead, red tracer bullets darted  into a black sky.
“It does look like it is coming to an end,” said Anthony  Skinner, Middle East analyst, Maplecroft. “But there are still  plenty of questions. The most important is exactly what Gaddafi  does now. Does he flee or can he fight?”
“In the slightly longer term, what happens next? We know  there have been some serious divisions between the rebel  movement and we don’t know yet if they will be able to form a  cohesive front to run the country.”
Gaddafi, in his second audio broadcast in 24 hours,  dismissed the rebels as rats.
“I am giving the order to open the weapons stockpiles,”  Gaddafi said. “I call on all Libyans to join this fight. Those  who are afraid, give your weapons to your mothers or sisters.
“Go out, I am with you until the end. I am in Tripoli. We  will … win.”
A Libyan government official told Reuters that 376 people on  both sides of the conflict were killed in fighting overnight on  Saturday in Tripoli, with about 1,000 others wounded.
A diplomatic source in Paris, where the government has  closely backed the rebels, said underground rebel cells in the  capital had been following detailed plans drawn up months ago  and had been waiting for a signal to act.
That signal was “iftar” — the moment when Muslims observing  the holy months of Ramadan break their daily fast. It was at  this moment that imams started broadcasting their message from  the mosques, residents said.

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