Diplomat: Rebels control 95 percent of Tripoli
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Libyan rebels claimed to be in control of most of the Libyan capital on Monday after their lightning advance on Tripoli heralded the fall of Moammar Gadhafi's nearly 42-year regime. Scattered battles erupted, and the mercurial leader's whereabouts remained unknown.
The international community called on Gadhafi to step down and moved ahead with post-war planning as euphoric residents celebrated in the Green Square, the symbolic heart of the Gadhafi regime. Colleagues warned he wouldn't go easily. Two of his sons were captured late Sunday.
"The real moment of victory is when Gadhafi is captured," the head of the opposition's National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, said at a news conference in the eastern city of Benghazi.
NATO promised to maintain its air campaign until all pro-Gadhafi forces surrender or return to barracks. NATO warplanes have hit at least 40 targets in and around Tripoli in the past two days — the highest number on a single geographic location since the bombing started more than five months ago, the alliance said.
In a statement Monday afternoon, President Barack Obama said the situation in Libya remained fluid and uncertain, but that the reign of Gadhafi was coming to an end.
"We came out today to feel a bit of freedom," Ashraf Halaby, a 30-year-old Tripoli resident, said as he and four of his friends watched several hundred people celebrating at Green Square. "We still don't believe that this is happening."
Revelers flashed the "V'' for victory sign and motorists circled the square's central median honking their horns and waving rebel flags.
The rest of the city, a metropolis of some 2 million people on the Mediterranean coast, was on edge, with most stores shuttered and large areas appeared lifeless, without even a sign of the thousands of rebels now in the city.
Signs of tension emerged between rebels and residents at a gas station in the neighborhood of Gourji, with heated arguments over who should fill up first after rebels cut in line. Rebel leaders urged people to protect public property, and no looting was reported.
Would you like to contribute to this story? Join the discussion.