herald

Thursday 18 January 2018

Gaddafi's son defiant as forces stage last stand against rebels

Muammar Gaddafi was still at large today as loyalist forces staged a defiant and bloody last stand in the Libyan capital against advancing rebels.

In a morale boosting development for the regime, the embattled dictator's son Saif al-Islam also appeared in Tripoli -- just days after he was reportedly arrested by anti-government forces.

Television images showed a jubilant and free Saif al-Islam meeting supporters outside a loyalist-held hotel before claiming that forces loyal to his father had "broken the backbone" of the rebel offensive.

He also indicated that Gaddafi remained in the violence-torn capital, stating that the weakening regime remained in control.

Saif al-Islam's unlikely appearance came after Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama called on Gaddafi to "relinquish power once and for all".

The leaders shared a late night telephone call during which they discussed plans for a "peaceful transition to democracy".

But they also warned rebels to continue "avoiding civilian casualties" and preside over reforms that were "just and inclusive for all of the people of Libya".

Loyalist forces fought fierce battles as rebels surged into Tripoli from all directions, taking control of large areas of the city.

There were significant casualties after clashes around the dictator's heavily fortified compound.

The head of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdel Jalil, warned that victory was not yet complete.

But he added: "The youth of Libya have written an epic heroic battle."

Saif al-Islam, who is regarded as Gaddafi's immediate successor, was pictured outside the Hotel Rixos in the early hours of this morning where he spoke to western journalists before driving in a convoy through loyalist strongholds in the city.

He said the rebels had fallen into a "trap" in Tripoli, adding: "We are going to win, because the people are with us."



TASK

The International Criminal Court -- who want Saif al-Islam and his father for alleged crimes against humanity -- yesterday confirmed his arrest by the rebels.

Mr Cameron, who broke off his holiday in Cornwall as rebel forces advanced on Tripoli, stressed there was no room for "complacency".

Speaking in Downing Street he called on Gaddafi to "stop fighting, without conditions".

He added: "Our task now is to do all we can to support the will of the Libyan people which is for an effective transition to a free, democratic and inclusive Libya.

"This will be and must be and should be a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned process with broad international support co-ordinated by the UN.

He said: "Libya is a sovereign nation. It is a matter for the new authorities in Libya to do what they believe is right with Gaddafi.

"First, obviously, they have to find him."

President Obama urged Gaddafi to call off his forces to prevent more slaughter on the streets.

"Although it is clear Gaddafi's rule is over, he still has the opportunity to reduce further bloodshed by explicitly relinquishing power to the people of Libya and calling for those forces that continue to fight to lay down their arms for the sake of Libya."

hnews@herald.ie

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