Libyan fighters loyal to Moammar Gadhafi counterattacked rebel forces in parts of Tripoli today as both sides claimed control of most of the capital.
Rebels said they held eastern parts of Tripoli, including Tajoura, two days after mounting an assault on the city. Loyalist forces are concentrated in the Hadba district and around Bab Azziya, the presidential compound in the southern suburbs from where the regime now broadcasts Libyan state TV. Explosions were heard near Gadhafi’s headquarters, Al Arabiya television reported. The whereabouts of the leader are unknown.
Gadhafi's son and presumed heir, Saif al-Islam, who rebels said they arrested in the capital Aug. 21, appeared at a hotel in Tripoli and told the BBC that his father was safe. He said his father's forces had broken the “backbone of the rebels” and that they had fallen into “a trap” by moving into the city. Rebels said Saif poses no threat and downplayed his reappearance.
The rebels, who were met by cheering crowds in the central Green Square when they swept into Tripoli from three directions over the weekend, have not achieved the clean victory in the city they were predicting yesterday and fighting also continues outside the capital. Allies called on Gadhafi to end his 42-year reign to avoid further bloodshed in the sixth-month conflict.
Opposition fighters were deployed yesterday to areas south of Zlitan, 150 kilometers (93 miles) southeast of Tripoli, and missiles have been fired at the coastal town of Misrata, east of the capital, from Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte.
Even as the fighting continued, rebel and western leaders looked ahead to a transition of power. U.S. President Barack Obama said that “the Gadhafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people.”
“As the regime collapses, there’s still fierce fighting, and we have reports of regime elements threatening to continue fighting,” Obama said yesterday from the vacation house where he’s staying on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
Gadhafi who in an Aug. 21 audio broadcast vowed “never to give up,” remained at large.
“I think Gadhafi is still in the country, the fighters will turn over every stone to find him, arrest him, and put him in court,” Mahmoud Al-Nakou, Libyan charge d’affaires to the U.K., said in a televised press conference in London yesterday.
Saif al-Islam took journalists on a tour of areas in Tripoli still under regime control, the Associated Press reported. The compact Mediterranean-styled center of the capital is surrounded by sprawling suburbs; the whole city covers about 154 square miles (400 square kilometers). The rebels control 90 percent of Tripoli, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington yesterday.
Rebels for a time held three of Gadhafi's sons during the advance into Tripoli. Besides Saif al-Islam, a second son, Mohammed, later escaped from house arrest, according to Al Jazeera.
Obama promised aid to help Libya transition to a new government. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton convened a conference call from New York yesterday with foreign ministers from 11 countries to discuss international support, Nuland said.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said that “Gadhafi must stop fighting, without conditions -- and clearly show that he has given up any claim to control Libya.” French President Nicolas Sarkozy also called on forces loyal to Gadhafi to lay down their arms.
Oil advanced for a second day amid signs that a recovery in Libyan crude production may take longer than expected. Output from Libya, which has the largest proven oil reserves of any African country, dropped to 100,000 barrels a day in July, down from the 1.6 million barrels the nation pumped before the uprising started.
Crude for October delivery climbed as much as $1.64 to $86.06 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and was at $85.76 at 9:16 a.m. London time. It gained 2.4 percent yesterday.
Shares of European companies with business in Libya, including Eni SpA and Total SA, gained on the prospect of an end to the conflict.
The uprising, inspired by the popular revolts that ousted the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, began in February and spread from the eastern rebel stronghold in Benghazi. Until this month, opposition fighters had struggled to take and hold government- controlled territory.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday he will convene an “urgent” meeting on Libya’s future with the heads of the African Union, the Arab League, the European Union and a coalition of Islamic nations.
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