Tripoli Under Rebel Control As Horrors of Libyan Conflict Emerge
The Libyan rebels have captured a key checkpoint on the Libya-Tunisia border, taking control of the main supply route to Tripoli, Al Jazeera reports. Late on Friday, the rebels raised the pre-Gaddafi Libyan flag at the checkpoint, Ras Jidir.
The rebels’ National Transitional Council (NTC) has begun to transfer the government to Tripoli. But the NTC’s claims that it has established authority are still “undermined” as fighting with supporters of Muammar el-Gaddafi continues, and the hunt for Gaddafi and his family has been so far unsuccessful. The rebels do not have any “concrete information” about Gaddafi’s whereabouts. The leader of the NTC, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, has said that they “might consider inviting police officers from Arab or Muslim states to Libya to help with security, but did not want a police presence from any other nations.” Rebel forces are currently in negotiations with Gaddafi supporters to surrender control of the deposed leader’s home town, Sirte; the rebels have reportedly taken control of the town of Bin Jawad, which is about 140 kilometers from Sirte. NATO carried out multiple airstrikes overnight above Sirte and also Tripoli to help the rebels’ effort.
On Saturday, Egypt’s state news agency, MENA, reported that a “convoy of six Mercedes” crossed from Libya into Algeria:
According to Reuters, it was impossible to verify the report and it was not immediately clear who might have been in any convoy, but MENA quoted the source as speculating that senior Libyan officials or Muammar Gaddafi himself and his sons may have fled the country.
“It is believed that these vehicles were carrying senior Libyan officials, and possibly Gaddafi and his sons,” MENA quoted the source as saying.
A report from the Associated Press says that Tripoli appears to be largely under rebel control. The NTC has announced measures to address the shortages of food, water and fuel in Tripoli, says the BBC; there is currently no running water and no electricity in the city of almost 2 million. In the midst of the chaos, Gaddafi’s Bab al-Azaziya compound has become “Tripoli’s newest and most extraordinary tourist attraction :
Dozens wandered in through the concealed entrance: two green doors leading to a shady garden of figs and lime trees. Fires still burned. In one ravaged bedroom a man knocked on the wall. “Are you there, Gaddafi?” he joked. Everyone laughed.
“I’m taking photos to show to my brothers and family still in Tunisia,” Salah Ermih explained, clicking the ransacked interior on his mobile phone camera. Ermih, a surgeon, said he had dashed out from his overworked hospital to have a look at Gaddafi’s inner sanctum.”
The humanitarian situation in Tripoli is grave, says the International Committee of the Red Cross of Geneva, which has also raised serious concerns about the treatment of detainees on both sides settling scores violently. Dozens of decomposing bodies, of both men and women — some strapped to gurneys — have been found in a Tripoli hospital next to Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound. The New York Times reports that 40 corpses — most darker-skinned than Libyans, suggesting that they may have been sub-Saharan Africans — were found piled up; the rebels have claimed that Gaddafi hired mercenaries to fight but have yet to offer proof.
According to the BBC, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is desperately seeking to reach sub-Saharan migrant workers. The head of the IOM in Benghazi, Martin Jerrett, says that “Africans were facing deep hostility from the population of Tripoli because they were generally viewed as ‘mercenaries and/or close to the regime.’” Most migrants are without embassy representation and are isolated.
The NTC predicts that it will take at least a decade to rebuild Libya’s infrastructure. Gaddafi’s 42 years of rule, says the New York Times, has left the country with “no parliament, no unified military command, no political parties, no unions, no civil society and no nongovernmental organizations.” The only ministry that functioned was the state oil company. But during the conflict, the production of oil — Libya’s biggest export — has fallen from 1.6 million barrels a day to fewer than 100,000.
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Photo of rebels entering the Gaddafi compound by magharebia