Libyan Rebels Claim Swaths of Tripoli, Heavy Fighting at Gadhafi Compound

BY News Desk  August 22, 2011 at 8:26 AM EDT

Updated 2:30 p.m. ET | President Obama said in a statement Monday afternoon that “it’s clear that Gadhafi’s rule is over” despite the continued fighting in Tripoli between rebels and forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.



He said Gadhafi has the chance to reduce the violence by ceding power and calling on his supporters to lay down their arms. He also urged fighters not to take revenge on Gadhafi loyalists.

“The rights of all Libyans must be respected,” President Obama said. “True justice cannot come from reprisals and violence. It comes from reconciliation and a Libya that allows its citizens to determine their own destiny.”

The United States and its allies consider the Transitional National Council as the legitimate governing authority in Libya, said the president, adding that he has asked U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice to use the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September to support the transition.


12:30 p.m. ET | The Pentagon has indicated that it believes Gadhafi is still inside of Libya, despite rumors that he had fled the country. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he has been unable to reach Gadhafi and called the latest developments “testimony to the courage and determination of the Libyan people to seek a free and democratic future.”

Rebels say they have taken control of Libyan state television, which has gone off the air.

During an interview with Al Jazeera, the home of Gadhafi’s son Muhammad appeared to be taken over and gunfire was heard in the background before the line abruptly cut off.

Rebel fighters are seen on the streets of the Libyan capital Tripoli, on August 22, 2011, as heavy fighting raged near the Tripoli compound of embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Photos by Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images.

8:30 a.m. ET | After converging on Tripoli over the weekend, Libyan rebels are claiming control over most of the capital city Monday and have at least two of leader Moammar Gadhafi’s sons in custody, including Saif al-Islam, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court. Gadhafi’s whereabouts are still unknown, though there has been heavy fighting at his compound and it is believed that he is still in Tripoli.

Residents of Tripoli could be seen celebrating in the streets at the surprisingly rapid advance by the rebels. After six months of bloody and often stalemated battle against government forces, the rebels’ move into Tripoli was not met with the type of resistance that Gadhafi had called for.

According to the New York Times, in one wealthy neighborhood “residents spilled into the streets — at first in disbelief, compulsively sharing the news; then in joy, hugging and cheering — as they received text messages saying that the rebels had entered the city.”

On Monday, heavy fighting was reported around Gadhafi’s compound and portions of the city still under government control. Tanks were seen firing from his Bab al-Azizia compound.

As rebels reached a milestone in their military offensive, world leaders stepped up diplomatic pressure on Gadhafi to leave office after 42 years in power. President Obama issued a statement Sunday saying,

“Gadhafi needs to acknowledge the reality that he no longer controls Libya. He needs to relinquish power once and for all,” President Obama said. “The future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini all issued sharp calls on Gadhafi to step down. (Read more reaction from world leaders here.)

Gadhafi issued an audio statement on Sunday attempting to rally supporters, saying, “Until the last drop of our blood we will be here defending the city”:


Rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdel-Rahman warned of premature confidence, saying that as long as Gadhafi and his supporters can resist, the “danger is still there.”

The NewsHour recently took a look back at the origins of the conflict and the rebels’ painstaking advance:

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