Tag Archive: Tripoli


Gadhafi’s regime teeters on collapse in Libya

Libyan rebel fighters embrace at the former female military base in Tripoli, Libya, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. 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, but scattered battles erupted and the mercurial leader's whereabouts remained unknown. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)People celebrate the capture in Tripoli of Moammar Gadhafi's son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, at the rebel-held town of Benghazi, Libya, early Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. Libyan rebels raced into Tripoli Sunday and met little resistance as Gadhafi's defenders melted away and his 42-year rule rapidly crumbled. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)

Libyan rebel fighters fire towards forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi during fierce gunfire in downtown Tripoli, Libya, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. World leaders said Monday the end is near for Moammar Gadhafi's regime and began planning for Libya's future without the man who has held power there for 42 years. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)

http://news.yahoo.com/gadhafis-regime-teeters-collapse-libya-205608125.html

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was nowhere to be found Monday as his 42-year rule teetered on the brink of collapse. Months of NATO airstrikes have left his Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli largely demolished. Most of his security forces fled or surrendered when rebel forces rolled into the capital Sunday night and took control of most of the city. And three of his sons are under arrest.

 

A mood of joy mixed with trepidation settled over the capital, with the rebels still fighting pockets of fierce resistance from regime loyalists firing mortars and anti-aircraft guns. Rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdel-Rahman, who was in Tripoli, said the “danger is still there” as long as Gadhafi remains on the run.

“The real moment of victory is when Gadhafi is captured,” Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, head of the rebel National Transitional Council, told a news conference in the opposition’s de facto capital of Benghazi, hundreds of miles east of Tripoli. He said the rebels have no idea where Gadhafi is and whether he is even in Tripoli. An Obama administration official said the U.S. had no indication that Gadhafi had left Libya.

President Barack Obama said the situation in Libya reached a tipping point in recent days after a five month NATO-led bombing campaign. However, he acknowledged that the situation remained fluid and that elements of the regime remained a threat.

The Obama administration official said U.S. officials and NATO partners had not been in contact with Gadhafi during the siege on Tripoli. However, the official said American and NATO representatives, as well as Libyan rebels, had all been in contact with people around Gadhafi, mostly those looking for a way out.

NATO vowed to keep up its air campaign until all pro-Gadhafi forces surrender or return to their barracks. The alliance’s 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 in March, NATO said.

A day after the rebels rode into the city of 2 million, the situation remained volatile. Even though rebels claimed they were in control of most of Tripoli, they still appeared to be on the defensive, ducking for cover during frequent clashes with regime fighters. Throughout the day, the rebels sent reinforcements to the city from the north, south and southeast, and a rebel field commander said more than 4,000 fighters were part of the final push to bring down the regime.

The Obama administration official said the U.S. believes 90 percent of the capital is under rebel control, while regime loyalists still control Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte and the southern city of Sabha.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publically.

Intense gunbattles erupted throughout the day and city was too unstable for any mass celebrations in the streets.

Clashes broke out early in the day at Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound when government tanks emerged from the complex and opened fire at rebels trying to get in, according to the rebel spokesman Abdel-Rahman and a neighbor.

Moammar al-Warfali, whose family home is next to the Gadhafi compound, said there appeared to be only a few tanks belonging to the remaining Gadhafi forces who have not fled or surrendered.

“When I climb the stairs and look from the roof, I see nothing at Bab al-Aziziyah. It is totally deserted except for the house which was raided by U.S. in 1986. Nothing else is there. Gadhafi can’t be there,” he said. “NATO has demolished it all and nothing remained.”

But Abdel-Rahman said Gadhafi still has forces to be reckoned with.

“We know that until now, Tripoli is encircled by Gadhafi brigades positioned at the outskirts of the capital, in camps, such as al-Yarmouk in the south of Tripoli. They can be in the middle of the city in half an hour.”

 

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Judges order arrest of Gadhafi, son for slayings

Judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng is seen in the courtroom in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday June 27, 2011. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, his son and his intelligence chief for crimes against humanity in the early days of their struggle to cling to power. (AP Photo/Robert Vos, Pool)

Libyan chant slogans against Moammar Gadhafi during a demonstration in the rebel-held capital Benghazi, Libya, Saturday, June 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)http://beta.news.yahoo.com/judges-order-arrest-gadhafi-son-slayings-122452359.html

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants Monday for Moammar Gadhafi, his son Seif, and his intelligence chief for crimes against humanity in the Libyan leader’s four-month battle to cling to power. 

Judges announced that the three men are wanted for orchestrating the killing, injuring, arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of civilians during the first 12 days of an uprising to topple Gadhafi from power, and for trying to cover up the alleged crimes.

The warrants turn Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanoussi into internationally wanted suspects, potentially complicating efforts to mediate an end to more than four months of intense fighting in the North African nation.

Presiding judge Sanji Monageng of Botswana said Monday there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that Gadhafi and his son are both “criminally responsible as indirect co-perpetrators” for the murder and persecution of civilians.

She called Gadhafi the “undisputed leader of Libya” who had “absolute, ultimate and unquestioned control” over his country’s military and security forces.

Libyan officials rejected the court’s authority even before the decision was read in a Hague courtroom, claiming the court had unfairly targeted Africans while ignoring what they called crimes committed by NATO in Afghanistan, Iraq “and in Libya now.”

“The ICC has no legitimacy whatsoever. We will deal with it. … All of its activities are directed at African leaders,” government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told reporters Sunday.

Monageng said evidence presented by prosecutors showed that following popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Gadhafi and his inner circle plotted a “state policy … aimed at deterring and quelling by any means — including by the use of lethal force — the demonstrations by civilians against the regime.”

She said it was impossible to put an exact number on the casualties, but said Gadhafi’s security forces likely “killed and injured as well as arrested and imprisoned hundreds of civilians.”

Prosecutors at the court said the three suspects should be arrested quickly “to prevent them covering up ongoing crimes and committing new crimes.”

“This is the only way to protect civilians in Libya,” said the statement from the office of Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

Shortly before the court announced the warrants, French President Nicolas Sarkozy reiterated his call for Gadhafi to step down.

“After 41 years of dictatorship, it is perhaps time to stop, for him to leave power,” he told a news conference in Paris. “Mr. Gadhafi knows perfectly well what he must do for peace to return. It only depends on him.”

In Tripoli, two loud explosions shook the area near Gadhafi’s compound Monday. NATO jets were heard over the Libyan capital minutes after the blasts as sirens from emergency vehicles blared in the streets.

The thunderous late-morning blasts were felt at a hotel where foreign journalists stay in Tripoli.

Smoke rose from the area near Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya complex, where Libyans hold daily rallies in support of the government. Gadhafi is not believed to be staying in the compound.

It wasn’t immediately clear what was hit or if there were civilian casualties.

A coalition including France, Britain and the United States began striking Gadhafi’s forces under a United Nations resolution to protect civilians on March 19. NATO assumed control of the air campaign over Libya on March 31 and is joined by a number of Arab allies.

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Adam Schreck in Tripoli, Libya contributed to this report

NATO targets Tripoli with daytime raid

http://beta.news.yahoo.com/nato-targets-tripoli-daytime-raid-103459345.html

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — NATO warplanes dashed into the Libyan capital Tripoli at midday Friday, pounding a target in the south of the city and sending a thick cloud of black smoke rising high into the air.

A series of explosions rumbled across other parts of the city as fighter jets could by heard flying overhead. Fire engines raced through the streets, sirens blaring.

It wasn’t clear what was hit or whether there were casualties. Friday is the main day of rest in Libya, with many people off work.

NATO has been ramping up the pressure on Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. Though most airstrikes happen under cover of darkness, daytime raids have grown more frequent.

Friday’s raids follow a barrage that struck multiple targets late Thursday night.

The fresh strikes blasted the capital as renewed diplomatic efforts to halt Libya’s civil war appeared to be gaining momentum, though there are no signs a breakthrough is imminent.

On Thursday, Russia’s envoy to Libya met with senior government leaders in Tripoli, but not Gadhafi himself, in an effort to stop the fighting.

Last week, the envoy Mikhail Margelov visited the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi and said that Gadhafi has lost his legitimacy. However, the envoy also said NATO airstrikes are not a solution to Libya’s violent stalemate.

Libyan Prime Minister al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi said the Libyan government has held a number of “preliminary meetings” with officials based in the eastern rebel-held city of Benghazi. He said the talks took place abroad, including in Egypt, Tunisia and Norway, but he did not provide specifics.

A coalition including France, Britain and the United States launched the first strikes against Gadhafi’s forces under a United Nations resolution to protect civilians on March 19. NATO assumed control of the air campaign over Libya on March 31. It’s joined by a number of Arab allies.

Speaking by video link from Naples, NATO Wing Commander Mike Bracken said Gadhafi’s future at the helm of Libya was a what he called a “political decision.” Bracken was speaking to reporters in Brussels, NATO headquarters.

Later, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said there were no indications Gadhafi would stop attacking the opposition.

“It is hard to imagine the end to attacks on civilians while the pro-Gadhafi regime is still in power,” Lungescu said in Brussels. “It is unfortunately still the case that pro-Gadhafi forces continue to show shocking determination to harm the Libyan people.”

What started as a peaceful uprising inside Libya against Gadhafi has grown into a civil war, with rebels now holding a third of the country in the east and pockets in the west.

Libya’s rebels mark Feb. 17 — four months ago Friday — as the start of their revolution against Gadhafi’s more than four-decade rule.

It was on that date that protesters emboldened by Arab uprisings in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt took to the streets in a number of Libyan cities. At least 20 people were reported killed in a crackdown by state security forces.

Fighting between government forces and the rebels had reached a stalemate until last week when NATO launched the heaviest bombardment of Gadhafi forces since the alliance took control of the skies over Libya.

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AP writer Don Melvin contributed from Brussels.

 

NATO airstrike hits near Gadhafi complex

In this image taken from TV, showing rebel forces on the front line as they repel government troops, Sunday June 12, 2011, in Dafniya, Libya. as fighthttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110614/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

By ADAM SCHRECK and HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press        Adam Schreck And Hadeel Al-shalchi, Associated Press–    16 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – A NATO airstrike hit an area near Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s compound in the capital again Tuesday, as military leaders voiced concerns about sustaining the operations if the alliance mission drags on.

A column of gray smoke could be seen rising from the area around Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound shortly before dawn Tuesday. The concussion from the blast was felt at a hotel where journalists stay in the capital.

It was not clear what was targeted, and Libyan officials didn’t immediately comment.

East of the capital, alliance aircraft have begun dropping leaflets warning government troops to abandon their posts outside Zlitan, which lies just west of the rebel-held port city of Misrata.

Rebel forces have been advancing along the Mediterranean coast toward Zlitan, but say they have been instructed by NATO to withdraw ahead of expected bombing runs to old front lines in Dafniya.

The 3-by-5 inch leaflets intended for forces loyal to Gadhafi carry the NATO symbol and a picture of an Apache attack helicopter and burning tanks on one side. Green Arabic writing warns: “There’s no place to hide. It’s not too late to stop fighting. If you continue to threaten civilians, you will face destruction.” The message on the reverse urges soldiers to “stop and stay away from fighting now.”

An Associated Press reporter near the front line said NATO fighter jets were be heard overhead.

If the rebels take Zlitan, they would be within 85 miles (135 kilometers) of the eastern outskirts of Tripoli. A rebel official said opposition leaders in Zlitan have been meeting with their counterparts in Misrata, but he acknowledged they face challenges in advancing on the city.

“We need the people of Zlitan to push more courageously forward. They are dependent on our movements, but the problem is only a third of that city is with the rebels,” said Ibrahim Beatelmal, a rebel military spokesman in Misrata.

NATO’s nearly three-month air campaign has grounded Gadhafi’s air forces and weakened his military capabilities. But there are signs the pace of operations has put a strain on the trans-Atlantic alliance.

In London, the head of the Royal Navy warned that the British fleet — a key contributor to the Libya mission — will be unable to maintain the pace of operations if the mission drags on until the end of the year.

Adm. Mark Stanhope told reporters Monday he was comfortable with NATO’s decision to extend the Libya operation to the end of September, but said that beyond that the government would need to make “challenging decisions.”

“If we do it longer than six months we will have to reprioritize forces,” he said.

Elsewhere, a senior NATO official said coalition resources would become “critical” if intervention in Libya continues.

“If additional resources are needed, this of course will need a political decision,” said the official, Gen. Stephane Abrial, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week publicly rebuked the United States’ European allies and said NATO’s operations in Libya have exposed the alliance’s shortcomings. France and Britain have carried most of the load since NATO began the Libya mission March 31.

In western Libya, Gadhafi’s troops were bombarding opposition forces controlling a key border crossing with Tunisia, according to Omar Hussein, a spokesman for rebels in the western Nafusa mountains.

He said government forces were targeting rebels holding the road that leads toward the Dehiba border crossing. Dehiba is a key supply point for the rebels who wrested control of a string of Nafusa mountain towns from Gadhafi’s forces earlier this month.

NATO, meanwhile, reported it had carried out 62 airstrikes on Libya Monday, hitting military targets in Tripoli and four other cities in Gadhafi controlled territory. The alliance has considerably stepped up the pace of air attacks over tjhe past several days.

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Al-Shalchi reported from Misrata. Maggie Michael in Cairo and Danica Kirka in London contributed reporting.

 

Libyan rebels claim breakout from Misrata

In this image taken from TV, showing rebel forces on the front line as they repel government troops, Sunday June 12, 2011, in Dafniya, Libya. as fighthttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110613/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI and MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press        Hadeel Al-shalchi And Maggie Michael, Associated Press–    53 mins ago

MISRATA, Libya – Government artillery rained down on rebel forces Monday but failed to stop their advance into key ground west of their stronghold at Libya’s major port. As fighting raged for a fourth day, Germany’s foreign minister paid a surprise visit to the rebel’s de facto capital.

Guido Westerwelle met with officials of the Transitional National Council, telling members of the nascent rebel government that Germany recognized the council as “the legitimate representative of the Libyan people”

That position is similar to that of the United States, which has stopped short of outright diplomatic recognition of the council. The move was, nevertheless, another big diplomatic boost for the rebels and their four-month uprising to end Moammar Gadhafi’s 40-year rule in the oil-rich North African country. Germany refused to participate in the NATO air mission over Libya and withheld support for the no-fly zone.

The rebels control roughly the eastern one-third of Libya as well as Misrata, the country’s major port. The also claim to have taken parts of coastal oil center of Zawiya in the far west. That port city is 18 miles (30 kilometers) west of Tripoli and a prize that would put them in striking distance of the capital. Control of the city also would cut one of Moammar Gadhafi’s last supply routes from Tunisia.

Despite rebel claims, government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said late Sunday that Gadhafi forces had driven off the attackers, and reporters taken to Zawiya saw secure streets and the green national flag flying over a central square. The insurgents, for their part, claimed a high-ranking Gadhafi commander was badly wounded in the fighting.

“The wishful reporting of some journalists that the rebels are gaining more power and more control of some areas is not correct,” he said.

In the major fighting near Misrata on Monday, an Associated Press photographer at the rebel front lines said they had pushed along the Mediterranean Sea to within 6 miles (10 kilometers) of Zlitan, the next city to the west of Misrata. A rebel commander said his forces, using arms seized from government weapons depots and fresh armaments being shipped in from Benghazi, planned to have moved into Zlitan, by Tuesday.

Ali Terbelo, the rebel commander, said other opposition forces already were in Zlitan, trying to encircle Gadhafi troops. If the rebels take the city they would be within 85 miles (135 kilometers) of the eastern outskirts of Gadhafi’s capital, Tripoli.

An AP reporter with rebel forces said shelling was intense Monday morning with rockets and artillery and mortar shells slamming into rebel lines west of Dafniya at a rate of about 7 each minute. Dafniya is about 20 miles (30 kilometers) west of Misrata

Officials at Hikma Hospital in Misrata said government shelling killed seven and wounded 49 on Sunday. New casualty figures were not available but ambulances were rushing from the Dafniya line back into Misrata.

The rebel thrust at Zawiya and movements farther east — near Misrata and Brega — suggested the stalemated uprising had been reinvigorated, and that Gadhafi’s defenders may become stretched thin.

“Over the past three days, we set fire under the feet of Gadhafi forces everywhere,” Col. Hamid al-Hasi, a rebel battalion commander, told AP. He said the rebels attacked “in very good coordination with NATO” to avoid friendly-fire incidents. “We don’t move unless we have very clear instructions from NATO.”

Rebels encountered a major setback, however, near the eastern oil town of Brega on Monday. Suleiman Rafathi, a doctor at the hospital in the town of Ajdabiya where the casualties were taken, said 23 rebels were killed and 26 wounded in a government ambush about 22 miles (35 kilometers) east of Brega.

The front lines between Brega and Ajdabiya have been relatively quiet in recent weeks, while fighting has raged in western Libya.

Rebel fighters appear to be rebounding with help from the NATO blockade of ports still under government control and alliance control of Libyan airspace. Both have severely crimped the North African dictator’s ability to resupply his forces. And his control has been hard hit by defections from his military and government inner circle.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke again against the Libyan regime, telling the nations of Africa on Monday to sever links Gadhafi despite his long support and patronage for many African leaders.

In a speech on Monday to diplomats at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, Clinton said Africa should join most of the rest of the world in abandoning Gadhafi. She said the Libyan leader has lost all legitimacy to rule because of attacks on his own citizens.

She’s urged all African leaders to demand that Gadhafi accept a ceasefire and then leave Libya. She also said they should expel pro-Gadhafi Libyan diplomats from their countries, suspend the operations of Libyan embassies and work with the Libyan opposition.

The rebel council also won recognition from the United Arab Emirates, adding a wealthy, influential Arab state to the handful of nations thus far accepting the insurgents as Libyans’ sole legitimate representatives.

In a lighter moment, the Libyan leader was shown playing chess with the visiting Russian head of the World Chess Federation. The federation is headed by the eccentric Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who until last year was the leader of Russia’s predominantly Buddhist republic of Kalmykia. He once claimed to have visited an alien spaceship.

Libyan state television showed Gadhafi, dressed all in black and wearing dark sunglasses, playing chess Sunday evening with his Russian guest.

Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Ilyumzhinov as saying Gadhafi told him he has no intention of leaving Libya despite international pressure.

It was unclear where the chess game took place. Gadhafi’s compound in the center of Tripoli has been under NATO bombardment and was hit again Sunday.

Gadhafi had not been seen in public since mid-May, and Ilyumzhinov told him how pleased he was to find him healthy and well.

 

NATO hits Tripoli; US says rebels can open office

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110524/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

Sky over Tripoli, Libya, is illuminated by explosions during an airstrike, early Tuesday, May 24, 2011. NATO warplanes were repeatedly hitting Tripoli

By DIAA HADID and MICHELLE FAUL, Asssociated Press Diaa Hadid And Michelle Faul, Asssociated Press 1 hr 7 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – NATO launched its most intense bombardment yet against Moammar Gadhafi’s stronghold of Tripoli Tuesday, while a senior U.S. diplomat said President Barack Obama has invited the Libyan rebels’ National Transitional Council to open an office in Washington but stopped short of formal recognition.

The international community has stepped up airstrikes and diplomatic efforts against the regime in a bid to break a virtual stalemate, with the rebels in the east and Gadhafi maintaining his hold on most of the west.

The NATO airstrikes struck in rapid succession within a half-hour time span, setting off more than 20 explosions and sending up plumes of acrid-smelling smoke from an area around Gadhafi’s sprawling Bab al-Aziziya compound in central Tripoli.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said at least three people were killed and dozens wounded in NATO strikes that targeted what he described as buildings used by volunteer units of the Libyan army.

NATO said in a statement that a number of precision-guided weapons hit a vehicle storage facility adjacent to Bab al-Aziziya that has been used to supply regime forces “conducting attacks on civilians.” It was not immediately clear if the facility was the only target hit in the barrage. Bab al-Aziziya, which includes a number of military facilities, has been pounded repeatedly by NATO strikes.

At the Tripoli Central Hospital, the bodies of three men in their twenties lay on stretchers, their clothing ripped and their faces partially blown away. A nurse, Ahmad Shara, told foreign reporters taken on a government-escorted visit to the facility soon after the strikes that the men were standing outside their homes when they were killed, presumably by shrapnel.

One man who identified himself as a relative pounded a wall and cried out in despair after seeing the bodies. Some 10 other men and women were wounded.

“We thought it was the day of judgment,” said Fathallah Salem, a 45-year-old contractor who rushed his 75-year-old mother to the hospital after she suffered shock. He said his home trembled, his mother fainted and the youngest of seven children screamed in terror at the sound of the rolling blasts.

“You were in the hotel and you were terrified by the shaking — imagine what it was like for the people who live in slums!” Salem told the reporters.

“Honestly, we used to have problems (with the regime),” he said in Arabic. “But today we are all Moammar Gadhafi.”

The U.S. launched the international air campaign on March 19 after the passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution to protect civilians after Gadhafi sent his forces to crush the public uprising against his rule. NATO, which has taken over the airstrikes, says it has been doing its best to minimize the risk of collateral damage.

The alliance has been escalating and widening the scope of its strikes over the past weeks, increasing the pressure on Gadhafi, while many countries have built closer ties with the rebel movement that has control of the eastern half of Libya.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh announced Tuesday that his country has recognized the rebels’ National Transitional Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people and would soon name a permanent envoy in Benghazi.

Several other countries, including France and Italy, have recognized the rebel administration, while the United States, European Union and others have established a diplomatic presence in Benghazi.

Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, said he had delivered an invitation on Obama’s behalf to the rebels to establish a representative office in Washington — a move he called “an important milestone in our relationship with the National Transitional Council.”

But while he said the United States considers the council a “legitimate and representative and credible” body, he stopped short of formal recognition due to what he called the temporary nature of the council. Council members stress that they will represent Libyans only in the period until Gadhafi can be defeated and democratic elections held.

“We are not talking to Gadhafi and his people. They are not talking to us. They have lost legitimacy,” Feltman told reporters during a visit to the de-facto rebel capital of Benghazi.

Feltman also said he expects Congress to vote soon to allow frozen regime assets in the U.S. to be used for purely humanitarian aid in Libya.

Rebel leaders welcomed the diplomatic contact, but said only better weapons will help them defeat Gadhafi.

“It is just not enough to recognize (us) and visit the liberated areas,” spokesman Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga told The Associated Press. “We have tried very hard to explain to them that we need the arms, we need funding, to be able to bring this to a successful conclusion at the earliest possible time and with the fewest humanitarian costs possible.”

Rebels now control the populated coastal strip in the country’s east and the western port city of Misrata, which Gadhafi’s forces have besieged for months. They also control pockets in Libya’s western Nafusa mountain range.

In what would be a significant new deployment of firepower, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said Monday that France and Britain will bring in attack helicopters for use in the airstrikes. However, Britain said Tuesday that it has not made any such decision.

British armed forces minister Nick Harvey told Parliament that he couldn’t comment on what the French were saying, but he insisted “that we have not taken this decision, and that we have not suggested to the French that we have taken this decision.”

Harvey left open the possibility that Britain would throw helicopters into the fight, but insisted that Britain was — as of Tuesday — merely considering its options.

The use of helicopters would mark a new strategy for NATO, which has seen Gadhafi’s forces adapt, often turning to urban fighting to make strikes by fighter planes more difficult.

Nimble, low-flying helicopters can more easily carry out precision strikes than jets, but they are also more vulnerable to ground fire. The alliance has had no military deaths since it began enforcing a no-fly zone on March 31.

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Faul reported from Benghazi. Associated Press writer Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, and Raphael G. Satter in London contributed to this report.

Int’l court to seek Libya arrest warrants

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110513/ap_on_re_eu/eu_international_court_libya

By MIKE CORDER, Associated Press Mike Corder, Associated Press 1 hr 37 mins ago

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – An international prosecutor said Friday he will seek arrest warrants next week for three top Libyan leaders on charges of murder and persecution during their attempts to crush the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, did not release the names of the suspects, but Gadhafi himself is expected to be among them.

Moreno-Ocampo revealed broad details of his investigation last week to the U.N. Security Council, but the announcement was the first time the court specified the charges — murder and persecution, considered crimes against humanity under the Geneva Conventions.

Prosecutors say their investigation has identified “three individuals who appear to bear the greatest responsibility for crimes against humanity” committed in Libya since Feb. 15, when Gadhafi’s forces began a brutal crackdown on anti-government rebels.

A panel of judges will review the prosecutor’s evidence before deciding whether to issue the warrants. It is not clear how long the judges will take before reaching a decision.

A prosecution statement charged that Libyan security forces “conducted widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population.”

The announcement came as NATO launched more airstrikes in Tripoli and Gadhafi’s protesters and soldiers engaged in gun battles in several of the capital’s neighborhoods.

On Thursday, Gadhafi’s fortified compound in the capital was among the targets hit by NATO aircraft and missiles.

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Feb. 26 to refer the Libyan crisis to the international court in The Hague, and Moreno-Ocampo launched a formal investigation just days later.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Thursday said he expected the ICC to ask for Gadhafi’s arrest, which would complicate any suggestion of the Libyan leader accepting exile as a way to end the conflict in his country.

Investigators have collected “extensive and solid evidence” during 30 missions to 11 countries and have interviewed more than 50 witnesses, including “key insiders,” as well as reviewing videos, photographs and other evidence, the prosecutors’ statement said.

They hailed the court for acting in what they called “real time” to prosecute crimes, unlike the international community’s response in other deadly conflicts in the past.

“There was no ICC when the Rwanda genocide happened and the Darfur situation was referred to the ICC two years after the beginning of the crimes against the civilian population,” the statement said.

Because the case was sent to the court by the Security Council, Gadhafi will become an internationally wanted suspect if he is indicted and all United Nations member states will be under an obligation to arrest him.

However, that does not guarantee he will be detained if he ventures outside Libya. The court’s judges have reported three countries to the Security Council for allowing Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to visit without arresting him. Al-Bashir has been indicted for crimes including genocide in Darfur in another case ordered by the Security Council.

The court has no police force of its own to arrest suspects.

Prosecutors said they also have uncovered evidence of war crimes, including rape and attacks on “sub-Saharan Africans wrongly perceived to be mercenaries.”

Prosecutors said they expect more details about such crimes in a report due to be published June 7 by a U.N. Commission of Inquiry probing allegations of human rights violations during the Libyan uprising.

NATO strikes Libyan capital after Gadhafi appears

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110512/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

By DIAA HADID, Associated Press Diaa Hadid, Associated Press 21 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – NATO airstrikes struck Moammar Gadhafi’s sprawling compound in Tripoli and three other sites early Thursday, hours after the Libyan leader was shown on state TV in his first appearance since his son was killed nearly two weeks ago.

Explosions thundered across the capital and ambulances raced through the city as the last missile exploded.

Government officials and state-run Libyan television said the strikes targeted Bab al-Azaziya, Gadhafi’s compound, but did not specify which buildings were hit. Reporters who were taken there later Thursday saw one missile-damaged building, and evidence that at least three missiles had hit the compound.

NATO, which has hit the Libyan capital repeatedly this week, said Thursday’s attack successfully hit “a large command and control bunker complex in downtown Tripoli that was used to coordinate attacks against civilian populations.”

In the eastern city of Benghazi, headquarters for the opposition movement trying to topple Gadhafi, rebel spokesman Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga claimed that anti-Gadhafi residents in the Tripoli area were staging peaceful demonstrations in many neighborhoods, prompting the regime to deploy troops and tanks in the streets that may have been diverted from other regions.

Ghoga, who did not specify the source of his information, said anti-Gadhafi militants had burned a police station in one suburb, and were setting up night patrols and checkpoints in other neighborhoods. There was no immediate independent confirmation of his claims; the foreign journalists in Tripoli are assigned government minders and limited in their movements.

After the early-morning airstrikes, medics arrived at Khadra Hospital with the bodies of two men they said were killed in the attack. One of bodies was charred; the other was covered by a green blanket, a leg dangling from the stretcher.

From a bus ferrying reporters to the hospital, smoke could be seen rising from part of the Gadhafi compound. Skid marks left from screeching vehicles crisscrossed the roads around it.

The medics said others had been killed by the airstrikes and were still being retrieved from the compound.

Gadhafi’s compound has been a frequent site of recent airstrikes, including one on April 30 that killed the leader’s son, Seif al-Arab. Officials said Gadhafi — Libya’s autocratic leader for 42 years — was in the compound when that strike occurred but escaped unharmed.

NATO has repeatedly said all its targets in Libya are military and that it is not targeting Gadhafi or other individuals. In its latest update Thursday, NATO denied targeting the North Korean Embassy in Tripoli — a response to a report by the Libyan state news agency JANA that the embassy had been damaged during one of this week’s strikes.

Gadhafi had seven sons and one daughter. He also had an adopted daughter who was killed in 1986 when a U.S. airstrike hit the Bab al-Aziziya residential compound in retaliation for a bombing attack on a German disco in which two U.S. servicemen were killed..

In an apparent effort to dispel rumors that Gadhafi himself had been killed, Libyan state TV showed him meeting tribal leaders, but did not record him speaking. To authenticate the scene, the camera zoomed in on the date on a TV monitor in the room, which read Wednesday, May 11. It was apparently recorded at the hotel where foreign correspondents must reside in Tripoli. Gadhafi did not make himself available to them.

The last time Gadhafi had been seen in public previously was April 9, when he visited a school in Tripoli.

Intensified NATO airstrikes on Gadhafi’s forces across Libya have given a boost to rebels fighting to oust the regime, with the opposition claiming Wednesday that it had captured the airport in the western city of Misrata. In all, NATO said, the alliance has carried out more than 2,400 airstrikes since March 31 as part of the effort to assist the rebels and pressure Gadhafi relinquish power.

Even though some of the recent reports of ground combat are difficult to confirm, they seem to represent a major boost for the rebels’ military prospects after weeks of stalemate on several fronts.

The rebels control most of eastern Libya, but Misrata — about 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli — is the only rebel stronghold in the west. Local doctors say more than 1,000 of its residents have been killed in the fighting and shelling during the siege by Gadhafi’s forces.

In Tripoli, a government spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, denied the Misrata rebels’ claims of success, saying regime forces still held the airport.

Ibrahim did acknowledge that the war was creating severe shortages of many commodities in Tripoli.

“The NATO airstrikes and the sea embargo … are badly influencing the lives of daily Libyans,” he said. “We have some shortages in fuel, food and medicine. It makes it difficult to go to schools, hospitals and factories.”

A potential humanitarian crisis was reported Thursday by the World Food Program in the mountain region of western Libya. Josette Sheeran, the WFP executive director, said fighting in the area between rebels and regime forces has prevented aid from reaching civilians trapped in some hard-to-reach villages.

She appealed for a cease-fire so deliveries could be made safely.

Britain said Thursday that it will supply police officers in rebel-held eastern Libya with uniforms and body armor, and help establish a public radio station. The announcement came after Prime Minister David Cameron and other ministers met in London with Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, head of the rebels’ National Transitional Council.

Cameron said he had invited Abdul-Jalil to open a permanent office in London to help cement contacts with Britain, although Britain has not followed France and Italy in recognizing the council as Libya’s legitimate government.

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Associated Press writers Michelle Faul in Benghazi and Slobodan Lekic in Brussels contributed to this report.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110506/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_libya

By KARIN LAUB, Associated Press Karin Laub, Associated Press 21 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – Moammar Gadhafi’s forces may have committed war crimes in the rebel-held city of Misrata and the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating because of regime attempts to tighten its siege and block access by sea, Amnesty International said Friday.

Libyan troops have indiscriminately fired heavy artillery, rockets and cluster bombs at residential areas of Libya’s third-largest city during a two-month siege, in a clear breach of international humanitarian law, the group said in a report.

“Weapons designed for the battle field and not for residential areas are being launched into residential neighborhoods, killing civilians and really just creating a situation of terror,” said Amnesty’s Donatella Rovera.

Earlier this week, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court told the U.N. Security Council he would seek arrest warrants against three Libyans for crimes against humanity committed in Libya. He did not name the suspects.

Misrata is the main rebel stronghold in western Libya, a region still largely under Gadhafi’s control, while the rebels hold positions in the east of the country.

Libyan troops besieging the city of 300,000 by land recently stepped up shelling of Misrata’s port to close the remaining lifeline. Hundreds of people have been killed in Misrata since February, medics say.

On Wednesday, government forces shelled Misrata’s port area as an aid vessel docked to evacuate hundreds of stranded migrant workers. The shells killed two toddlers and their aunt and uncle, all from Niger, as they waited for evacuation in a nearby tent camp.

The humanitarian situation has deteriorated sharply in recent days because the attempted port blockade has made it even more difficult to bring in supplies, said Rovera. She said there is no electricity or running water in large parts of the city, and food supplies are dwindling.

Government officials deny wrongdoing by Libyan troops, including shelling of civilian areas. Libya’s deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaim, said Thursday that the military has decided to block ships from reaching Misrata, but would not discuss the tactics by regime loyalists, such as last week’s mining of Misrata harbor or Wednesday’s shelling.

“We will not allow those ships to bring arms to the city and then evacuate some criminals,” Kaim said. The government claimed that aid ships would be allowed to pass if they coordinate with the regime.

The fate of Misrata is of strategic importance in the battle for Libya. Unless his forces retake the city, Gadhafi cannot attempt to partition the country, perhaps his only option for remaining in power in some areas of Libya.

For much of the past two months, Gadhafi’s troops in tanks were deployed along parts of a downtown thoroughfare, Tripoli Street, while snipers took over high buildings. Late last month, rebel fighters drove regime loyalists to the outskirts of Misrata from where they’ve continued daily shelling attacks.

Amnesty said scores of Misrata residents not involved in fighting have been killed and hundreds injured by indiscriminate attacks, including with 122mm Grad rockets and 155mm artillery shells.

The report cited an April 14 attack in which rockets hit the Qasr Ahmed neighborhood, killing 12 residents, among them several who were waiting in line outside a bakery.

A day later, the research team found evidence of the use of cluster bombs which pose particular risk to civilians because they scatter small bomblets over a wide area. The group also said snipers targeted residents in areas under control of opposition fighters. Many residents were trapped near the front lines for weeks, the group said.

In another development Friday, France ordered 14 Libyan embassy employees to leave within 48 hours. They had worked for Libya’s embassy in Paris before it was shut about a month ago. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero would not say what the diplomats had done to merit expulsion.

France has recognized Libya’s opposition movement, and has been a major backer of a NATO-led military mission intended to protect civilians from an onslaught by Gadhafi’s forces.

On Thursday, members from the 22-nation Contact Group on Libya agreed to set up an internationally monitored fund that the rebels can access to provide basic services to the Libyan people. Countries have already pledged $250 million.

The United States said it would move to free up at least some of the more than $30 billion it has frozen in Libyan assets. Kaim, the Libyan government official, said the international community has no right to divert frozen Libyan assets, which total about $120 billion. “Any use of the frozen assets is like piracy on the high seas,” he said.

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Associated Press reporter Martin DiCaro contributed reporting.

AP IMPACT: How rebels held Misrata

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110504/ap_on_bi_ge/ml_libya_battle_for_misrata

By BEN HUBBARD, Associated Press Ben Hubbard, Associated Press Wed May 4, 5:40 am ET

MISRATA, Libya – Tripoli Street is a bullet-scarred wasteland — littered with charred cars and tanks, its cafes and offices shattered. Yet for Misrata’s civilians-turned-fighters, the boulevard is a prized trophy, paid for in blood, won with grit and guile.

It took five weeks of fierce street battles — on rooftops, in alleyways — for Misrata’s inexperienced rebels to wrest control of their city’s commercial heart from forces loyal to Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi. Up against armored units and professional sniper squads, they turned bottles, tires and trailer trucks into tools of war.

When they finally succeeded in pushing government forces out of Libya’s third-largest city in late April, it was the greatest head-to-head military victory yet in the uprising that threatens Gadhafi’s 42-year hold on power. The opposition controls much of eastern Libya, but Misrata is the only city in the west rebels have managed to hold.

“Our fighters weren’t fighting from experience,” said the local military spokesman, Ibrahim Beatelmal, noting that most had never touched a gun before joining the fight. “They had to make it all up as they went along.”

The city remains surrounded, accessible only through its port and subjected to daily bombardments. After two months of siege, cemeteries accommodate rows of new graves and hospitals have transformed into battlefield clinics; doctors estimate that the siege’s death toll has passed 1,000.

Yet amid the carnage, residents have organized to stave off hunger, allocate fuel and protect the city. They’ve erected sand berms along streets to absorb blasts, hacked down palm trees to delineate ambulance fast lanes, formed an array of administrative committees — all with a community spirit that revealed itself in many ways during an Associated Press reporter’s weeklong stay.

Misrata is a merchant city, with a large professional class whose expertise has paid off in distinctive ways. Dermatologists treat blast victims. University students master street-fighting tactics.

“All of a sudden I became responsible for macaroni and onions,” said Majdi Shibani, a telecommunications professor put in charge of food distribution — a daunting task in a sprawling city where all phone lines have been cut. His team oversees distribution of 400 tons of food per week from a room in the back of a hookah lounge, where customers smoke water pipes.

Donations of food have streamed in on boats from the Libyan diaspora, foreign countries and international organizations. There’s little coordination, resulting in huge surpluses of, say, canned corn — which Shibani said Libyans hate.

The stalemate in Misrata mirrors the situation nationwide. Soon after the uprising against Gadhafi broke out on Feb. 15, the opposition took over Benghazi and other eastern towns, but its patchwork forces proved unable to make further gains even after U.S. and NATO airstrikes on Gadhafi’s troops began in late March.

Meanwhile, government forces surrounded Misrata, 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of the capital Tripoli, cutting it off and attacking from three sides. Unlike fighters in eastern Libya, who retreat across stretches of desert when attacked, Misrata’s rebels can’t run; their backs are to the Mediterranean Sea.

After several failed attacks on Misrata, government commanders sent a column of tanks blasting its way down Tripoli Street on March 16. Residents fled, and regime sniper teams moved in, building nests on a dozen of the city’s tallest buildings, notably a nine-story insurance building. Gunfire from the rooftops killed and wounded scores of civilians.

The city’s youth organized resistance. Led by a handful of retired army officers, they formed brigades of dozens of fighters, each assigned to a side street, said Samir al-Hadi, a grocer who led a group at Tripoli Street’s southern end.

Local youths used their intimate knowledge of the area to dodge sniper fire, serving as scouts, gunmen, messengers and supply runners. Over walkie-talkies, group leaders let others know when tanks or supply trucks arrived so they could attack them with Molotov cocktails or rocket-propelled grenades.

They first fought with only light arms. With each ambush, they captured more — mostly anti-aircraft and heavy artillery guns — which they welded to the backs of pickup trucks.

The Gadhafi regime imported the pickups — cheap Chinese imitations of name-brand trucks — in 2007, but they sat unwanted in a lot until the war. Now, the rebels have registered about 2,000, even issuing photo IDs to their drivers to prevent theft.

The fleet is essential to the rebel cause, ferrying fighters to battle, aid to families, and casualties to hospitals. Although the trucks often break down, the rebels call them a blessing.

“The bad cars Gadhafi brought us we now use to fight him,” said Hisham Bansasi, who helps coordinate the fleet. “You can call it a joke of destiny.”

Bigger trucks were used when the rebels — unable to blast the snipers from their positions — decided instead to cut their supply lines. While rooftop gunmen provided cover, rebels drove trucks full of sand onto Tripoli Street, dumped their trailers and shot out their tires, forming heavy roadblocks.

“When we blocked the road, there was no way to get supplies to the snipers,” al-Hadi said.

The rebels then circled in, closing off back routes with destroyed cars and concrete sewage pipes.

Street battles raged while they besieged the snipers. Government forces peppered the area with mortars, killing many rebels. Al-Hadi guesses that about 400 died in the fighting on Tripoli Street alone, although no one has exact figures.

Among the victims were two Western photojournalists who had accompanied rebels to the street — Chris Hondros, a New York-based photographer for Getty Images, and British-born Tim Hetherington, co-director of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Restrepo” about U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

As the snipers gradually weakened, rebel fighters went building by building, clearing them any way they could.

Near the battle’s end, a team of snipers held out in a multistory furniture store called “Make Yourself at Home,” al-Hadi said. Rebels fired on the building with anti-aircraft guns, forcing the snipers into the basement.

Gunmen then stormed the building and rolled burning tires down the stairs. Days later, its stairwell was charred black, and the smell of burnt rubber and dead bodies fouled the air.

The battle turned in late April, al-Hadi said, as government troops ran low on supplies and fled from the high-rises to nearby homes. The rebels raised their flag on the insurance building on April 21.

Rebel fighter Mustafa Zredi, 18, said he watched one of the last sniper groups seize a house on April 26 and punch holes for their rifles in the stairway walls.

“We knew we could easily put gas in a bottle and throw it over the wall to burn them out,” Zredi said.

Before doing so, the fighters asked permission from the owner, 66-year-old Mohammed Labbiz. With regret, he said OK.

“That was the only way to get those dogs out,” Labbiz recalled, standing in the charred shell of his home of 30 years. “I hope that God will reimburse me.”

Two days later, curious families walked down Tripoli Street, snapping photos of their children next to burned-out tanks.

The fighting has caused massive displacement throughout Misrata. Thousands of residents now squat in schools or crowd in with family members.

The Refayda family, from a semi-rural area to the east, evacuated into the city in mid-April after a surge of sniper fire and bombardments.

Some 70 clan members now stay in an unfinished, four-room house near the ocean. They’ve divided the rooms by age and gender — women in the bedrooms, girls in the living room, boys in the garage. The oldest is 77, the youngest 4 months. About 30 of the clan’s grown men are on the battlefield but visit regularly.

Demand is high for the home’s three bathrooms; three children shower at a time.

Ali Hameida built the house in 2003 for his wife and five children, never imagining so many guests.

“If I had known, I’d have dug a basement,” he said.

It’s been impossible to keep a precise count of Misrata’s death toll; doctors’ estimates range between 1,000 and 2,000. The central hospital, Hikma, has registered more than 550 dead since mid-February, but others were brought to outlying clinics or buried straightaway.

The Libyan government has provided no information on how many soldiers it has lost, further blurring the picture.

Hikma, originally a private clinic, has been transformed by the war. A tent in the parking lot houses the triage unit. Another serves as a mosque. Wards are crowded around the clock, and doctors bed down in alcoves hidden behind sheets. Outside, families cluster to await news, erupting in tears and chants when a new death is confirmed.

Dr. Ali Mustafa Ali, like many of his colleagues, often sleeps at Hikma but returns home to his wife and children during lulls, snipping a few roses from his garden to bring back to work.

“The severity of the situation has made everyone pull together in a way I’ve never seen before,” Ali said.

A group of men emerged from the hospital carrying a wooden coffin covered in a blanket — the first of 11 “martyrs” who would reach the hospital before nightfall.

“God is great,” Ali said as the men passed. Then he entered the hospital to put the flowers on his desk.

“They’re for the people inside,” he said, “to keep their spirits up.”

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