Tripoli celebrates a victory

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

MISRATA has fallen. The rebel stronghold on the road to Tripoli was stormed by loyalist forces this week and they now control most of the port that has been in rebel hands for the past six months. And Libyan Interior Minister Nasser al Mabrouk has appeared on Libyan television to dismiss western claims that he had fled to Egypt to join the rebels, pointing out that his private visit to Cairo was for hospital treatment.

The Libyan army claims that while mopping up operations continue, loyalist troops and tribal militias are now in control of most of the port of Misrata, some 200 km east of Tripoli. Some 1,250 Libyan prisoners-of-war held by the rebels in the town have been freed and unconfirmed reports say that top rebel commander Khalifa Hifter has been captured by loyalist troops. Hifter is a former Libyan colonel who defected to the Americans in the early 1990s and has worked for the CIA ever since. He returned to Libya to support the rebels in March.


But fierce fighting continues in western Libya as government troops battle with Nato backed rebels for the control of towns of strategic importance near the capital following the collapse of Venezuelan-sponsored peace talks with rebel envoys in Tunisia last weekend.

The fall of the only rebel held city in western Libya has not been confirmed by western sources that are continuing to repeat rebel claims that Gaddafi will be out by the end of the month. But a Nato official conceded that the situation on the ground remained “very dynamic”.

Libyans took to the streets of the capital, Tripoli, when the news of the liberation of Misrata was announced. In a live broadcast to cheering crowds in Tripoli’s main square Muammar Gaddafi said: “The end of the coloniser and the end of the rats is close,” he said referring to the rebels and Nato. “They flee from one house to another before the masses who are chasing them,” Gaddafi said, calling on his people to take up arms and free the country from the “traitors and from Nato”.

The liberation of Misrata was confirmed by Libyan government spokesperson Dr Moussa Ibrahim and at a press conference called by tribal leaders of up to 200 Libyan tribes, including the Wafalla, Tarhouna, Zlitan, Washafana tribes that make up half the Libyan population.

The tribal leaders also confirmed that the towns of Zawiya, Ghuriyan and Sorman, are secure despite rebel claims to have taken them in the past few days. Though there are pockets of rebels in these areas, they said, they are isolated and surrounded by the Libyan army and the tribal militias.

Despite all the talk of a rebel army it is still rag-bag of monarchists, Islamic fundamentalists and agents of imperialism banded together to serve the big oil corporations, that survives only because it is protected by Nato aviation. Rebel leaders talk about marching on Tripoli but as one teacher in the Libyan capital told the western media this week: “I wish they would march into Tripoli. I wish. They will all die.”