Tripoli has denied that Khamis Gaddafi, the youngest son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, was killed in a NATO airstrike on Zliten. Khamis is the commander of an elite fighting unit in the war against the imperialists and their allies., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
In march aftermath, jubilation turns to wariness in Tripoli
By David D. Kirkpatrick and Kareem Fahim
New York Times
Updated: 08/22/2011 06:57:10 PM PDT
TRIPOLI, Libya -- The euphoria that followed the rebels' triumphant march in Tripoli gave way to confusion and wariness Monday, as Moammar Gadhafi remained at large, his son Seif al-Islam made a surprise appearance at a hotel with foreign journalists and pockets of loyalist forces stubbornly resisted rebel efforts to take control of the capital.
While rebel leaders professed to be making progress in securing Tripoli and planning for a post-Gadhafi government, and international leaders hailed the beginnings of a new era in Libya, the immediate aftermath of the lightning invasion was a vacuum of power, with no cohesive rebel government in place and remnants of the Gadhafi regime still in evidence.
Seif Gadhafi, who was brandished as a trophy capture by the rebels Sunday and through much of Monday, presented himself to foreign journalists confined to the Gadhafi-controlled luxury Rixos Hotel in the center of Tripoli early Tuesday, boasting that his father's government was still "in control" and had lured the rebels into a trap, the BBC and news services reported. His appearance raised significant questions about the credibility of rebel leaders.
It was not clear whether he had been in rebel custody and escaped, or was never held at all. Another Gadhafi son, Muhammed, escaped from house arrest Monday.
Fighters hostile to the rebels still battled on the streets and rooftops of Tripoli, injuring or killing at least a dozen people. Moammar
Gadhafi's green flag still flew in parts of Tripoli and over at least two major cities considered strongholds of his tribe, Sabha to the south and Surt on the coast roughly midway between Tripoli and Benghazi. The Pentagon reported late Monday that its warplanes had shot down a Scud missile fired from Surt.
In a brief address from his vacation home on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Mass., President Barack Obama recognized both the historic nature of the rebels' accomplishment and the troubles they face. Saying that the future of Libya "is in the hands of its people," he cautioned that "there will be huge challenges ahead." He pledged that the United States would seek to help Libya in its attempt to establish democracy.
There was speculation that Gadhafi may have retreated to his fortified compound, Bab al-Aziziya, in Tripoli, which rebels said was heavily defended by snipers and tanks.
Mahmud Nacua, a Libyan rebel representative in London, told reporters that the insurgents would "look under every stone" for Gadhafi so that he could be brought to trial. This was presumably a reference to charges by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which in June issued arrest warrants for Gadhafi, Seif Gadhafi and Libya's intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi, accusing them of crimes against humanity.
For now, governments throughout the West and the Middle East welcomed the rebels' victory and pledged to assist them in the transition. The European Union said Monday that it had begun planning for a post-Gadhafi era, and Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said he would fly to Benghazi on Tuesday to meet with the rebel leader, Mustapha Abdul-Jalil, the semiofficial Anatolian Agency reported.
Egypt formally recognized the rebel Libyan government Monday, calling the Transitional National Council the "new regime." Mohamed Amr, Egypt's foreign minister, said that the council would take over the Libyan Embassy in Cairo, and would assume Libya's seat on the Arab League, which is based in Cairo.
France said Monday that it wanted to call a top-level meeting in Paris next week of the so-called Contact Group of nations supporting the Libyan rebels: the United States, Britain, several Arab states, the United Nations and the Arab League. But the French foreign minister, Alain Juppe, said, "It's up to the Libyans and the Libyans alone to choose their future and to build a new Libya, which will be a democratic Libya."
At the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general, said he was trying to organize a meeting by Thursday or Friday with regional actors, including the African Union and the Arab League, to help smooth the transition to a new government. He said the United Nations was prepared to help with any request from the Libyans, from writing a new constitution to coordinating humanitarian assistance, he said.
Some rebels speculated that certain tribes that had benefited from Gadhafi patronage, like the Warfalla and the Warshafana, remained hostile to the rebels.
The tenuous nature of the rebels' grip on the capital was clear at the makeshift headquarters of the "Tripoli Brigade," described as a hand-picked team assigned to secure the city.
Emhemmed Ghula, who identified himself as a deputy chief of the Tripoli underground, was telling journalists the city was "90 percent under control," aside from some number of snipers.
"They have some roofs," Ghula said, "but they can't move in the streets."
Moments later, one such sniper atop a tall building nearby began firing down on the courtyard and windows of the headquarters, housed in a former women's school. Then, as the fighters huddled against the walls, two groups of armed men in trucks -- one mounted with artillery -- attacked the front gate. Artillery shells burst through the compound, and a car parked nearby burst into flames after it was struck by a rocket grenade.
The attackers' aim and organization suggested the gunmen were experienced Gadhafi militiamen. But the fighters inside showed little discipline. Instead of firing back at the start of the fight, a dozen armed men near the gate raced to the floor of a small anteroom. There was no one either giving or following orders.
"It is nothing, just a few guys," one rebel officer said to a group of journalists, playing down the significance of what became a three-hour firefight. "But for you guys, it is safer inside."