The 42-year regime of Muammar Gaddafi came to an abrupt end , as rebels took over his official residence at Bab al Aziziya in Tripoli.
Meanwhile, in a show of support for the Libyan rebels by Nigeria, the minister of state for foreign affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri, has promised to work with the Libyan Transitional National Council to establish a credible democratic transition to civil rule.
Hundreds of rebels surged through the dictator’s compound yesterday, tearing down an iconic statue and raising flags, and celebrating what they considered a major victory over the Libyan leader and his loyalist troops.
The rebel fighters fought their way into Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound yesterday despite heavy gunfire from pro-Gaddafi forces. Hundreds of rebels could be seen firing their weapons in the air in celebration. Black smoke filled the skyline, while gunfire and explosions continued around the compound and several other parts of the city.
It was not clear if Gaddafi or members of his inner circle were in the compound at the time, or the city of Tripoli. United States officials in Washington said yesterday that they believed Gaddafi was still in Libya.
In New York, Libya’s deputy United Nations ambassador, Ibrahim Dabbashi, told reporters that he expected Tripoli to be completely liberated within the next 72 hours. European Union foreign minister, Catherine Ashton, said yesterday that the rebels’ political leader, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, told her they had control of 80 per cent of the Libyan capital.
This is even as a defiant Colonel Gaddafi yesterday taunted opponents by insisting he was still alive and would remain in Tripoli and “fight to the end”.
Minister of state for foreign affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri, while promising to work with the Libyan Transitional National Council to establish a credible democratic transition to civil rule, also said that there was the need to prevent further loss of life in the North African country, and urged Gaddafi to take the path of honour by relinquishing power immediately.
Speaking during a news conference yesterday in Abuja, the foreign minister added that the new leaders in Libya should establish an all-inclusive and broad-based administration and pursue a policy of “no victor, no vanquished” in the post-conflict reconciliation process.
She said the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) had engaged in various processes aimed at providing a peaceful resolution of the conflict. “Indeed, Nigeria as a member of the UN Security Council supports the 1973 Resolution aimed at providing humanitarian protection to the innocent Libyans.”
In a statement made available yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also promised that Nigeria would work with the democratic forces in Libya during the transition process.
The statement read in part, “The federal government urges the new leaders in Libya to ensure magnanimity in victory in order to build the foundation of a new and democratic order in the country.”
Acknowledging the Libyan Transitional Council, the statement expressed regret over the loss of lives and hardship that the struggle had caused the people.
More than 33 nations have recognised the Transitional Council in Libya since the beginning of the crisis.
Yesterday, a friend of Gaddafi’s from the Russian Chess Federation claimed to have received a telephone call from the fallen leader. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who visited Libya during the NATO bombing campaign and met Gaddafi, said, “He [his son] gave the phone to his father, who said that he is in Tripoli, he is alive and healthy and is prepared to fight to the end.”
A North Atlantic Treaty Organisation spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, told reporters in Brussels that NATO’s mission in Libya was not over, and that it would continue military operations until all attacks and threats of attacks against civilians had stopped.
NATO military spokesman, Colonel Roland Lavoie, added that NATO forces were not specifically targeting Gaddafi, but that the alliance would strike “wherever is necessary” in Libya to protect civilians.
Gaddafi’s whereabouts are unknown. But his son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, defiantly appeared in the city late Monday saying his father was still in Tripoli and that his government was still in control.
The rebels earlier claimed to have arrested Seif al-Islam, but he spoke to foreign journalists at the Gaddafi-controlled Rixos Hotel, and then led a convoy of vehicles through loyalist areas, where television footage showed him pumping his fists in the air as supporters cheered him on.
The International Criminal Court yesterday refuted reports that it had earlier confirmed Seif al-Islam’s detention, saying the court never received official word from the opposition Transitional National Council. Senior rebel sources also said another of Gaddafi’s sons, Mohammed, escaped house arrest on Monday. A third son apparently is still in detention.
Opposition council, Chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil, said Gaddafi would receive a fair trial if captured, and that the “real moment of victory” would be when he is taken into custody. Jalil acknowledged that the rebels had yet to establish full control in Tripoli, where forces loyal to Gaddafi had battled rebels in scattered pockets.
The International Organisation for Migration said yesterday the fighting in Tripoli had forced it to delay docking a ship to begin evacuating stranded migrants. The group said the ship, which can carry 300 people, would remain off shore until the security situation improved.
In addition to parts of Tripoli, pro-government forces also control at least two major cities affiliated with his tribe, Sabha, to the south, and Sirte, some 450 kilometres east of the capital along the coast. NATO said that government forces fired three Scud missiles toward the city of Misrata, but no injuries were reported.
The rebel troops moved into central Tripoli with little resistance after capturing a key military base run by the government’s elite Khamis Brigade and commanded by another of Gaddafi’s sons.