Libyan rebel chief predicts end for Gaddafi

Libyan rebel chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil said on Saturday “the end is very near” for Moammar Gadaffi and that it will be “catastrophic”, as insurgents pushing on the capital claimed to have seized a third key town in 24 hours.

“We have contacts with people from the inner circle of Gadaffi,” said the chairperson of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC). “All evidence [shows] that the end is very near, with God’s grace.”

Abdel Jalil was speaking to reporters as a flurry of rumours suggested that Gadaffi was preparing to flee Libya.

“I expect a catastrophic end for him and his inner circle and I expect that he will create a situation within Tripoli. I hope my expectation is wrong,” Abdel Jalil said.

“That would be a good thing that will end the bloodshed and help us avoid material costs. But I do not expect that he will do that,” Abdel Jalil added.

Popular figure
Earlier, rebels claimed to have captured the strategic eastern oil hub of Brega — a day after saying they had seized two other key towns.

In another blow to Gadaffi, the rebels also said former premier Abdessalam Jalloud, who fell out of favour with the Libyan strongman in the mid-1990s but remained a highly popular figure, had defected and joined their ranks.

Jalloud “has gone to Benghazi yesterday [Friday] night,” rebel spokesperson Juma Ibrahim told reporters on Saturday. “I don’t know who he met there. He left by car,” he added.

Overnight, rebel military commander Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani told AFP the ex-premier had managed to flee Tripoli and “has joined the rebels.” Another source said his family accompanied him and they stopped first in Zintan.

His defection comes amid amid rumours that the Libyan strongman himself was preparing to flee as rebels appear to be closing in on the capital.

Falling out
Jalloud was among the officers who grabbed power with Gadaffi in 1969 and was long considered the regime’s second-in-command before being gradually sidelined in the 1990s.

Prime minister during the 1970s, he retired from politics following his dispute with Gadaffi and lived under hour arrest.

Libya’s Awalam television channel quoted the former premier on its news ticker as saying, “Gadaffi’s regime is finished.”

On the ground, a top-ranking rebel official said of Brega, “the industrial zone is under our control; all Brega is now under our control.”

On Friday they claimed the western refinery town of Zawiyah to be free — the last major barrier as they try to advance on Tripoli from the west.

The refinery is the only source of fuel to the capital and could leave it without critical supplies.

Hopes for defections
Insurgents also said they seized Zliten from Gadaffi’s forces, hours after saying they were in the town’s centre, 150 kilometres east of Tripoli.

Rebels have been seeking to sever Tripoli’s supply lines from Tunisia to the west and to Gadaffi’s hometown of Sirte in the east, hoping to cut off the capital, prompt defections and spark an uprising inside Tripoli.

A Tunisian defence official said Tunisian troops clashed with a group of armed Libyans overnight in the country’s south-west.

An army patrol came under fire from men travelling in several 4X4 vehicles with Libyan registration plates in the Douz region, the official said.

No one was caught and the attackers were still being hunted Saturday by ground and air forces, the official said, adding there were no casualties on the Tunisian side.

With the rebels vowing to take Tripoli before the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan ends in late August, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini urged the population of the capital to rise up against Gadaffi.

“We hope the people of Tripoli … understand the regime has harmed its own people and will therefore join a process of political change to cut off room for manoeuvre for Gadaffi’s regime,” Frattini said.

The International Organisation for Migration said it was drawing up plans to evacuate thousands of migrants stranded in Tripoli because exit points have been cut off after a spate of rebel successes.

“There are already thousands of Egyptians who are ready for evacuation now, and what we are hearing is that every day there are more and more requests,” IOM spokesperson Jemini Pandya said.

For its part, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported a “rapid deterioration in the humanitarian situation” in several Libyan towns.

Meanwhile Nato, in its operational update for Friday, said it had hit targets in the vicinity of Tripoli, Zawiyah and Zliten, including nine military facilities around the capital.

Elsewhere, reports from Brasilia said clashes broke out late Friday at the Libyan embassy in the Brazilian capital between supporters of Gadaffi and his opponents.

Human Rights Watch announced it had sent a “four-person team” to Tripoli and other sites in western Libya under government control, where “they engaged senior Libyan officials on human rights in the conflict and visited sites of Nato air strikes where civilians are alleged to have died.” — AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Boots, balls & bluster: Blowing the whistle on rugby ref bias

Claims of favouritism stalk the game, but the data on penalties paints a picture at odds with righteous indignation

MH17 suspect denies Ukraine rebels behind attack

International investigators said they were issuing arrest warrants for Igor Girkin and three other suspects over the downing of the Malaysia Airlines

Ebola cases in DRC top 2 000

The daily number of new Ebola cases has tripled in recent months, according to aid organizations

It is far too early to celebrate peace in the Central African Republic

The Central African Republic has been in crisis for most of its existence. Can a new peace deal change things?

Yemen government ready to re-start talks with rebels

The United Nations said a day earlier it aimed to relaunch the talks within a month, after a previous attempt collapsed in September

The dictator’s dilemma: How to succeed at succession

From retirements to coups d’etat, presidential term limits and opposition candidates winning elections, democracy appears to be making progress

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

Fees free fall, independent schools close

Parents have lost their jobs or had salaries cut; without state help the schools just can’t survive

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

White men still rule and earn more

Women and black people occupy only a few seats at the JSE table, the latest PwC report has found

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday