Six months after the beginning of the unrest in Libya, Muammar Qaddafi's reign seems to be finally drawing to a close. By the end of the weekend, rebel forces had overrun Tripoli, though pro-Qaddafi soldiers still reportedly controlled 15 to 20 percent of the city. The dictator's oldest son, Saif al-Islam, was taken into custody by the opposition, while another, Mohammed, was placed under house arrest.
"It's over, frizz-head," chanted hundreds of jubilant men and women massed in Green Square, using a mocking nickname of the curly-haired Gadhafi. The revelers fired shots in the air, clapped and waved the rebels' tricolor flag. Some set fire to the green flag of Gadhafi's regime and shot holes in a poster with the leader's image.
Barack Obama called for the remainder of Libya's imperiled leadership to “to recognize that their rule has come to an end” and to "relinquish power once and for all.” He added:
“Tonight, the momentum against the Qaddafi regime has reached a tipping point ... Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of a tyrant. The Qaddafi 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.”
Meanwhile, the National Transitional Council, Libya's rebel governing body, sent out a mass text message to followers. It read:
“We congratulate the Libyan people for the fall of Muammar Qaddafi and call on the Libyan people to go into the street to protect the public property. Long live free Libya.”
Despite all this, Qaddafi's whereabouts remained unknown, and he continued to make radio addresses denouncing “slaves of the imperialists” while insisting that “all the tribes are now marching on Tripoli.” Recent defector Abdel-Salam Jalloud told an Italian radio station, "I think it's impossible that he'll surrender ... He doesn't have the courage, like Hitler, to kill himself."
Clashes around his compound, Bab al-Aziziya, were ongoing as of Monday morning. Rebel spokesman Nouri Echtiwi described the still-violent scene to Reuters:
"Four hours of calm followed the street celebrations. Then tanks and pick-up trucks with heavy machineguns mounted on the back came out of Bab al-Aziziya, the last of Gaddafi's bastions, and started firing and shelling Assarin Street and al-Khalifa area ... They fired randomly in all directions whenever they heard gunfire."
However, the world seemed to be preparing for the post-Qaddafi era. As British minister Alistair Burt told the AP: “It’s clear the regime is crumbling around him."
Gaddafi tanks emerge after rebels sweep into Tripoli [Reuters]
Jubilant Rebels Control Much of Tripoli [NYT]
Libya conflict: Fighting rages near Gaddafi compound [BBC]
Libya Rebels Overtake Tripoli As Gaddafi Regime Crumbles [HuffPo]
Previously: Libyan Rebels Say They’ve Captured Qaddafi’s Son