Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Seif al-Islam Says Tripoli is Safe Despite False Claims of Rebels and Their Imperialist Backers

23 August 2011
Last updated at 00:17 ET

Defiant Saif al-Islam Gaddafi reappears

Matthew Price
BBC News, Tripoli

I asked Saif al-Islam Gaddafi where he saw the balance of power in Tripoli: "We gave them a hard time, so we are winning," he told me. He seemed pumped full of adrenalin and brimming with confidence.

Precisely who is winning the battle for Tripoli, though, is still unclear. In parts of the capital, rebel forces are in control. After their astonishing advance over the weekend, they believe victory is within sight.

But Gaddafi forces have been reinforced and some rebel supply lines into the city seem to have come under attack. It is clear loyalists are fighting back in some areas and many casualties are being reported.

The sudden appearance of Saif al-Islam, said only on Sunday to have been captured by the rebels, will merely embolden them further.

"We gave them a hard time, so we're winning," he said.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, 39, had been widely regarded as a likely successor to his father. On Sunday the rebels claimed they had captured him, along with other members of his family.

Saif al-Islam also said he did not care about an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity.

Asked if Col Gaddafi was safe and in Tripoli, he replied: "Of course."

He also went to his father's Bab al-Azizia compound and told three journalists accompanying him: "Tripoli is under our control. Everyone should rest assured."

The Libyan leader's whereabouts are still unclear. A diplomatic source told AFP news agency that Col Gaddafi could still be at the compound. He has not been seen in public for months, although he has broadcast audio messages from undisclosed locations.

In a broadcast late on Sunday, he urged residents to "save Tripoli" from the rebels.

Members of the rebels' National Transitional Council in Benghazi say they plan to fly to the capital on Wednesday to start work on forming a new government.

A BBC correspondent in Benghazi says there is optimism in their ranks that by the middle of the week Tripoli airport will be secure enough to allow them to move.

Jubilant rebel fighters pushed their way into the heart of Tripoli on Sunday. BBC team attacked BBC reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes was accompanying rebels into central Tripoli when pro-Gaddafi forces attacked his convoy.


The rebels swept into Tripoli from several directions following an uprising in the capital at the weekend. They were greeted by jubilant crowds in central Green Square when they arrived on Sunday.

Rebel fighters have set up checkpoints in parts of the city, and say reinforcements are arriving by boat. But they have met stiff resistance in a number of areas.

There was sustained gunfire near the Bab al-Azizia compound throughout Monday.

Gaddafi loyalists also remain in control of the area further south around the Rixos Hotel, where many Western journalists are based.

A rebel convoy coming in from the west was ambushed by Gaddafi loyalists using anti-aircraft fire on Monday. The convoy forced to pull out of the city.

As night fell the fighting appeared to die down in many areas. Both sides insist they have the upper hand.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim claimed late pro-Gaddafi had control of at least 75% of the city, while the rebels said they were holding about 80%.

Our correspondents says it is impossible to determine who is telling the truth.

World leaders have urged Col Gaddafi to step down. US President Barack Obama said elements of the Gaddafi regime continued to pose a threat.

"But this much is clear: the Gaddafi regime is coming to an end and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people," he said.

He appealed to Col Gaddafi to reduce further bloodshed by "explicitly relinquishing power to the people of Libya and calling on those forces that continue to fight to lay down their arms".

The uprising against Col Gaddafi's 42-year rule began in February. The rebels held the east of the country and pockets of the west, before making their push towards the capital at the weekend.

Nato air strikes have been targeting Col Gaddafi's troops, acting on a UN mandate to protect civilians.

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