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Politics | Human rights
East Libya liberated: "Now we take Tripoli"
A large range of sources from Benghazi - including hospital and judiciary officials, ordinary protesters and visiting diplomats - agree that the eastern Libyan city is now firmly in the hands of the protesting people. Even Libyan leader Mohammar Ghaddafi's son Saif el-Islam in a televised speech last night more or less admitted the city had fallen to the protesters.
In other parts of eastern Libya - historically called Cyrenaica - reports indicate that the towns of Derna, Tobruk, Al-Marj and Ajdabya are equally "liberated", representing all major settlements in the east, towards the Egyptian border.
In Derna and Al-Bayda, local police troops were reported to have switched sides and shot against the army as the latter opened fire on protesters. In Tobruk - a famous WW2 battle site - protesters claim to have taken control and opened the nearby Egyptian border so that supplies can now be sent to the "liberated areas".
Western Libya the new battleground
Yesterday, the wall of fear even was broken in the capital, Tripoli. Before that, many western Libyan towns had already seen protests as forceful as in the east, contrasting government statements that the riots were a "separatist movement" in eastern Libya.
Reports from western Libyan towns are sparser and more contradicting, but there are indications that the protesting people have taken control of several key places, in particular in the inland, south of Tripoli. The town of Az-Zintan seems to be a nucleus of the "liberated area" in the west, assisting other towns and villages to crush the remaining army resistance.
Yesterday, all major towns and cities close to Tripoli - in western Libya's historic region of Tripolitania - reported large anti-government protests. The major western city of Khoms, 120 kilometres eas
From the coastal city of Syrte, located between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, there are also an increasing number of reports of a protesters' takeover after army troops laid down their weapons. A victory in Syrte would open a key east-west corridor for protesters, allowing the "liberated" parts of eastern Libya to aid protesters in the Tripoli area.
But the final countdown of the Ghaddafi regime now seems to be playing out in the capital. Independent sources report of hard fighting with over 60 deaths in Tripoli today. Also here, the fear has been broken although the armed forces are using live ammunition.
In Tripoli, also plain-cloth government agents are infiltrating the protests, suddenly drawing knives and stabbing protesters. Protesters also report of civilian cars suddenly appearing, with four passengers shooting wildly at the crowds.
Nonetheless, protesters in Tripoli are gaining ground, mostly ousting "pro-Ghaddafi protesters" - widely assumed to be paid by the regime - from the central Green Square. Several government buildings in central Tripoli have been set on fire, including the People's Hall "parliament".
The fighting in Tripoli seems to be increasing from hour to hour. Most foreigners have already evacuated the city, several Libyan high officials are rushing to quit their posts. Most believe the regime is fighting its final battle and is bound to fall.
By staff writers
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