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Gadhafi Loyalists Reject Rebels’ Deadline to Surrender

August 31, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
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GWEN IFILL: Now, Libya, where rebel forces continue the hunt for the country’s longtime leader, Moammar Gadhafi.

In his hometown of Sirte, loyalists have refused to lay down arms, despite a Saturday deadline imposed by the rebels. One of Gadhafi’s sons, Saadi, was said to be negotiating his own surrender, while another son, Saif al-Islam, reportedly in Tripoli, vowed on Arabic television to fight to the death.

In the capital, there were celebrations today for the Muslim holiday of Eid.

Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News is there and filed this report.

LINDSEY HILSUM: In the early morning, they gathered in central Tripoli at Martyrs Square. No one calls this Green Square any longer. Security was tight as they began the Eid prayer, marking an end to Ramadan and, this year, an end to Colonel Gadhafi’s control over their lives.

This is a very different Eid celebration. People here have been telling me that, in the past, Colonel Gadhafi always used to interfere with their festival, use it for his own propaganda. Not this year.

MAN: This is the first time in my life that I feel that I am free and I pray free, without any restriction from Gadhafi’s regime.

WOMAN: We are very, very, very happy, all the people in Tripoli very, very, very happy. We wait this day from six months. All the people here wait this day from six months. We afraid we killed — he — he killed many, many, many people, many, many people.

WOMAN: I need a hundred words — not a hundred, thousand, million words to say what I feel.

LINDSEY HILSUM: On the front line, 25 miles from Colonel Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte, the fighters can’t celebrate in the same way.

Gadhafi’s supporters there have said they won’t surrender. His whereabouts remain unknown, but his spokesman said last night they won’t give in to, as he put it, armed gangs. He said Gadhafi’s son Saadi would negotiate.

But the fighters have come too far for that. On the square, they have posted the pictures of some of those who’ve died in this revolution. The fear is there may be more.

MAN: The martyrs, we lost some of our best young people, and many loss has been done, but inshallah, inshallah, Libya, we will be optimistic.

LINDSEY HILSUM: We came across a group of young women, who told us for the first time about their hidden role.

Amira Tarhuni showed me the emergency kit she used when running a secret hospital for fighters in a Tripoli suburb.

AMIRA TARHUNI, medical intern (through translator): There is a lot of snipers in our neighborhood. For example, when I came to the hospital, I come in the car, run fast, and my head is down because we’re afraid from the snipers. If they know, we — will come and kill us.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Others made wristbands and cooked food to sell, sending the profits to the rebels in the mountains.

Were you frightened that you might be found out?

OMEZZIN ABU SREWIL, medical student (through translator): Of course we were. But you can’t just sit down and do nothing while you see others suffer. There is more to life than just be safe.

LINDSEY HILSUM: This is where Colonel Gadhafi made his last public speech. Today, people seemed unbothered that he’s still on the loose. They just wanted to let out the emotions they have suppressed for so long.

MAN: There is no word can define how I feel today. I just want to shoot some bullets in the air.

LINDSEY HILSUM: And so they did, notwithstanding the ban on firing the new authorities are trying to bring into force.

In a few days’ time, Eid will be over. All the complexity of violent change will come to the fore, political divisions, high expectations, frustration with poor services. But today in Tripoli, Libyans were simply happy to celebrate.

JEFFREY BROWN: The festive mood contrasted with some dark discoveries in Tripoli in recent days.

Emma Murphy of Independent Television News was shown two former detention centers there, places where prisoners were apparently tortured.

A warning: Her report contains some disturbing images.

EMMA MURPHY: Dark and chest-tighteningly claustrophobic, these are the torture chambers of the Gadhafi regime, the tiny cells just long enough for someone to be forced to the floor, the only ventilation a gap in the ceiling that could be closed without warning from above.

The apparatus of torture is all around, the abandoned food an indication of how recently these cells were occupied. But it is, perhaps, the writing on the wall which gives the clearest indication of the hell that has been endured here.

MAN: “My God, save me. Today, I am (INAUDIBLE). God — God, help me.”

EMMA MURPHY: This man is a former Gadhafi detainee.

KHALED ALI, former detainee: They are tortured by many things. Maybe by electric shock, maybe by cold water, maybe by deprive him from washing their bodies.

EMMA MURPHY: And this is how the torture ended for so many, these bodies found at another detention center, men snatched from streets and homes by execution squads, held, then killed.

Over 150 bodies have been pulled out of this warehouse. The fear is that there are many more sites like this all across the country. You only have to walk a few minutes in Tripoli to find the families of the thousands who’ve disappeared. This woman is searching the hospitals and detention centers for her son, whilst, outside, this man found the car his son was taken from, but he has no news of where he’s gone.

Samir Abuarghub’s uncle Tauzi was a senior government official snatched 45 days ago for refusing to defend Gadhafi’s human rights record. A doctor has now told the family Tauzi was tortured to death days after being taken.

SAMIR ABUARGHUB, nephew of Gadhafi victim: Seven cars came around this area, stopped and they came out. Each car had four or five police officers which knocked on my uncle’s door and dragged him out.

LINDSEY HILSUM: They came to here?

SAMIR ABUARGHUB: Yes, they came here. They dragged him out, and that’s the last we heard of him. Only last night, we heard that he’s been killed on the first day he was arrested.

EMMA MURPHY: Tauzi’s older brother and family now search for his body, but with little hope that it will be found.

ABDUALAH ABUARGHUB, brother of Gadhafi victim: Our heart has become blood. We treated very badly. This only one story, but you will find hundreds of thousands of million stories like this.

EMMA MURPHY: We found the hidden dungeon Tauzi Abuarghub was held in beneath a government building. A neighbor told how the heavy doors would be unlocked for Khamis Gadhafi to visit. When he did, the sounds of screams and beatings were always heard.

Now people here wait to see if the figureheads of their former regime will find themselves incarcerated.

JEFFREY BROWN: Tomorrow, top officials from more than 30 countries will discuss how to get more money to Libya, as well as how to rebuild the nation’s institutions after 42 years of one-man rule.