Libya: Defections Leave Muammar Gaddafi Isolated In Tripoli Trap
February 23, 2011: Ian Black / The Guardian (guardian.co.uk) – February 23, 2011
Muammar Gaddafi was looking increasingly isolated after damaging defections by senior regime figures and key military commanders and units as the uprising spread closer to Tripoli.
Malta denied a report that Gaddafi’s daughter, Aisha, was on board a Libyan plane refused permission to land on the island on Wednesday. But Menas, a respected London Middle East consultancy, said the leader’s wife, daughter, daughters-in-law and grandchildren had left Libya for an unknown destination.
Mass protests erupted in Misurata, a Mediterranean port and the country’s third-largest city, and violence was reported in Sebrata and Zawiya, which are also in western Libya and closer to Tripoli.
Benghazi and much of the east of the country have now been lost to the government. Misurata is near Sirte, the leader’s home town, where a key tribe has reportedly come out in support of what is being called the 17 February revolution.
Al-Jazeera TV reported that tribes in the Azzintan and Nalut areas, also in the west, had come out against Gaddafi. Oil facilities were now under their protection.
Libyan and Arab sources said the biggest blow to Gaddafi so far had been the defection of his interior minister and veteran loyalist, Abdel-Fatah Younes al-Obeidi, who called on the army on Tuesday to “serve the people and support the revolution and its legitimate demands”.
But the whereabouts of other senior comrades remains unclear. Mustafa al-Kharroubi, a leading figure in the regime’s old guard, is rumoured to have left Tripoli. There are question marks too about another loyalist, Khweildi al-Hmeidi, whose daughter is married to the leader’s wayward son Sa’adi.
In another blow to the Libyan leader, his former justice minister, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who stepped down this week, was quoted as saying today that Gaddafi personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing, in which 270 people were killed.
Another departure was of Youssef Sawan, who quit as director of the Gaddafi International Charitable Foundation run by the leader’s son, the supposedly reformist-minded Saif al-Islam.
Libyan exile sources also confirmed the defection of a senior figure in the revolutionary committees, Ali al-Sahouli, who warned that Gaddafi would sabotage the country’s infrastructure including oil installations, power stations and banks.
Scores of Libyan diplomats across the world have also now resigned – taking the opportunity to distance themselves from the regime while there is still time.
Details of the military situation remained sketchy, but the army commander and defence minister, General Abu-Bakr Yunis Jabber, was put under house arrest earlier this week.
Major General Suleiman Mahmoud, army commander in Tobruk, said he was “joining the people”, as did units in the eastern Jebel Akhdar area. Analysts say that while the army has never been a powerful force, Gaddafi desperately needs its support.
In one possible pointer for the future, al-Saiqa (Thunderbolt) special forces battalion is said to have attacked Gaddafi’s revolutionary guard in Benghazi.
Gaddafi may also have the support of foreign mercenary units, many of which are from ex-Soviet bloc countries.
Libya’s Quryna newspaper reported that a pilot and navigator bailed out and ditched their fighter plane rather than carry out an order to bomb Benghazi.
Anti-Gaddafi Libyans were outraged by his televised address on Tuesday when he urged his supporters to hit back at protesters and vowed to die a “martyr” in his homeland rather than relinquish power.
Many Libyans say they expect him to go down fighting if the situation continues to deteriorate. It was unclear last night whether he would be able to leave his headquarters at Bab al-Aziziyah in Tripoli. “He is surrounded by his guards and is too scared to come out,” said one opposition supporter. Gunfire was heard nearby on Wednesday.
“Gaddafi could hole up in his own tribal area around Sirte with a substantial back-up of military hardware or do the same thing at the al-Aziziyah complex,” said the Menas consultancy.
In an alternative scenario, Gaddafi may try to leave the capital for Sebha, a town on the edge of the Sahara that is dominated by the apparently still loyal Megarha tribe and where he declared the establishment of people’s power in 1977.
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Libyan Army Mutineers Executed?
The Tonka Report Editor’s Note: It’s still rather difficult to believe that Gaddafi is even in Libya… – SJH
Link to original article below…
Written by Steven John Hibbs
February 23, 2011 at 8:36 pm
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