Libyan rebels have reportedly arrested the son of President Muammar Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam, after last night pushing into the capital Tripoli.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) yesterday told AFP that al-Islam, who is wanted on charges of crimes against humanity, was in custody.
Rebels with the Transitional National Council (TNC), now recognised by many nations including the Maldives as Libya’s legitimate governing entity, last night reached Tripoli’s central Green Square following reports that Gaddafi’s Presidential Guard had surrendered.
“Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of a tyrant,” said US President Barack Obama in a statement, following the rebel’s push into Tripoli. “The Gaddafi regime is showing signs of collapsing. The people of Libya are showing that the universal pursuit of dignity and freedom is far stronger than the iron fist of a dictator.
“The surest way for the bloodshed to end is simple: Muammar Gaddafi and his regime need to recognise that their rule has come to an end. Gaddafi needs to acknowledge the reality that he no longer controls Libya. He needs to relinquish power once and for all,” Obama said.
Gaddafi, who earlier had vowed to fight “to the last drop of blood”, issued a statement on state television calling on the population to descend on the city and defend it from the rebels.
“They are coming to destroy Tripoli. They are coming to steal our oil. Now Tripoli is in ruins. Come out of your houses and fight these betrayers. Hurry up, hurry up, families and tribes, go to Tripoli,” Gaddafi said.
Libya’s information ministry continued to insist that the regime had “thousands and thousands of fighters”.
“Nato has intensified its attacks on and around Tripoli, giving immediate and direct support for the rebels’ forces to advance into a peaceful capital of this great nation and the death toll is beyond imagination,” a Gaddafi’s spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim said, warning of impending “massacres”.
“I thought I knew the West. But in this conflict I saw a different West. The West of blood and disaster and killing and occupation.”
An uprising of rebel groups in the centre of Tripoli was joined by fighters arriving by sea, armed with weapons seized following the capture of a large military base on Sunday afternoon. Nato planes provided air cover for the advancing rebels.
Meanwhile in Tripoli, there were reports that four districts of the city remained under Gaddafi’s control. Media reporting on the push claimed that the dictator of 42 years had sent tanks into residential areas and fired on protesters, and there were rumours of roadside executions.
Early this morning, a rebel spokesman told Al-Jazeera that Gaddafi’s forces still controlled 15-20 percent of the city, and showed no sign of surrender.
Gaddafi’s fall is likely to increase pressure on the Syrian Iran-backed regime, which continues to target civilian demonstrators despite increasing discontent across the international community.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has vowed that military action against Syria would “bring repercussions”, adding that demands for his to step down “should not be made about a president who was chosen by the Syrian people and who was not put in office by the West, a president who was not made in the United States.”
The Maldives is meanwhile leading a special session of the UN Human Rights Council, in conjunction with Germany, Kuwait and Mexico, to address the deteriorating human rights situation. Permanent Representative of the Maldives to the United Nations, Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, is holding a press conference on the topic this afternoon.