Gaddafi regime nears collapse

Elizabeth Fournier
LIBYAN rebels marched into the centre of Tripoli last night as world leaders hailed the end of the Gaddafi regime and the embattled colonel’s sons were taken into custody.

A convoy of thousands of rebel vehicles streamed into Tripoli’s Green Square just after midnight UK time, after a coordinated surge saw Nato-supported forces in Libya advance more than 30km in 24 hours to reach the capital.

As celebrations dominated the centre of the city last night, with posters of Gaddafi torn down and weapons fired into the air, a spokesperson for the International Criminal Court confirmed that Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam had been detained.

Another of Gaddafi’s sons, Mohammed, was also said to have surrendered to rebels during the advance yesterday.

Only the Gaddafi-loyal stronghold of Bab Al-Aziziya-Jazeera remained out of rebel hands last night as supporters gathered in Green Square, with speculation mounting over Gaddafi’s whereabouts as he used state-controlled television to issue defiant statements.

Gaddafi used national broadcasts to claim the rebels were being driven out of the city, and to call on his supporters to rise up and help fight them off.

But the rebels came up against little resistance during their final push into Tripoli – the climax of a five-month campaign of air strikes and ground assaults that culminated in rebels entering the outskirts of the capital from the west of the country yesterday afternoon.

A rebel spokesman hailed the storming of Tripoli as “a victory for the Libyan people” and called for Gaddafi to be put on trial, as Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the allies were “ready to work with the Libyan people and with the (rebel) Transitional National Council, which holds a great responsibility”.

Downing Street last night called for Gaddafi to stand down immediately to save Libyan citizens from further violence.

“It is clear from the scenes we are witnessing in Tripoli that the end is near for Gaddafi,” the Prime Minister said in a statement.