Rebels rename Green Square into Martyrs' Square
Intensive fighting has erupted in the center of Tripoli. The Rixos hotel, where most international journalists have been housed, is right in the crossfire. The hotel was reportedly hit with live ammunition.
The building has lost power and there is no food, journalist Thierry Meyssan told RT from the hotel. Meyssan, the founder and chairman of the online newspaper the Voltaire Network, added that the hotel is surrounded by tribes. The journalist expects the fight this night to be as violent as on Sunday night.
“NATO has lost a lot of assets this afternoon, as there was the government’s counter-offensive,” Meyssan said. “They ousted the rebels from the greater part of the city.”
He added that the rebels managed to make the progress they made only through NATO’s air support, through a strategy of moving by night into areas recently devastated by alliance bombs.
Libyan Prime Minister Al Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi has escaped to the Tunisian island of Djerba, the Reuters news agency reported on Monday. The prime minister, who has been Libya’s formal governor, appears to have arrived in Tunisia as early as Sunday night, when opposition forces started their advance on Tripoli.
The head of the country’s television union, Abdallah Mansour, appears to have followed the premier, as he was also seen on Tunisia’s Djerba.
This comes along with news that Libyan embassies in the Czech Republic, Turkey, Algeria, Syria and Belarus have raised the green flags of the Libyan opposition.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s officials stated their recognition of the opposition’s provisional council as the legitimate representative of Libya, Egyptian state television reported on Monday. A similar statement was aired by Jordanian state television on the same day. The rebels’ National Transitional Council is now recognized by Arab countries including Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Opposition forces seize Libyan state TV
Libyan state TV went off air mid-Monday, reports Reuters. The rebels say the state broadcaster’s headquarters are now under their control.
Early on Monday morning, tanks rolled out of Muammar Gaddafi’s Tripoli residence and began shelling the rebels who had gathered near the compound as sustained heavy gunfire was heard in the Libyan capital.
The tanks are being supported by pick-up trucks with heavy machineguns mounted on them, used by government forces to suppress rebel fire on Assarin Street and in al-Khalifa area.
More government tanks have been reported in the port of Tripoli.
According to Libyan government representative Musa Ibrahim, there are 65,000 troops protecting the ruling regime. Earlier the rebels claimed that some of the troops had surrendered to them – a remarkable statement, in view of the numerous reports about rebels torturing, beheading and murdering prisoners of war.
Rebels now admit that from 15 to 20 per cent of Tripoli remains under the control of loyalist troops, contradicting earlier claims that the city was practically under their full control, with the exception of government buildings.
NATO officials say combat air patrols will be continued until all government forces surrender.
A convoy of 22 military vehicles full of government soldiers have arrived in the center and are erecting a barricade near a hotel where Dr. Franklin Lamb, the director of Americans for Middle East Peace, is staying right now.
“I have a feeling that the government is luring the rebels in, allowing them to have fun on Green Square and then very well counter-attacking them,” Dr Lamb told RT, adding that it looks like the end is near.
Meanwhile, the rebels have warned of intelligence reports indicating that troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi are advancing towards the center of the Libyan capital.
The situation in Tripoli is chaotic, with few precise details emerging of developments in the capital. Rumors of Gaddafi’s son Khamis leading a counter-offensive against them make the outcome of Monday’s struggle for the city even more unclear.
Muammar Gaddafi’s whereabouts remain unknown.
It is possible that Libyan leader might still be in his compound in Bab al-Aziziya as he earlier promised not to leave the capital. However, Al Arabiya TV channel reports that Muammar Gaddafi is now in a hospital in the town of Tajura.
On Sunday night, the rebels advanced through the Libyan capital from three directions – east, south and west – without meeting any significant resistance from the loyalist troops until arriving to the city’s Green Square where they rallied, renaming the area Martyrs’ Square.