While many allies of the President, “Democratic strategists” and the like were exultant over the fall of Gadhafi in Libya, world leaders were more subdued, because they knew he had not been captured, and Tripoli was not entirely in the hands of the rebels. We’ve seen ebbs and flows throughout the civil war in Libya, and the potential existed for another one. And that’s what appears to be happening.
Forces loyal to the fugitive Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi struck back Monday against the rebel fighters who had swept euphorically into the capital the night before, forcing them to retreat from several strategic locations and tempering hopes that the battle for Tripoli was all but over.
The dramatic appearance Monday night of Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam at the Rixos hotel, where the Tripoli-based press corps remains trapped, contradicted the rebels’ assertion the day before that they had captured him and cast into doubt their claim of controlling 80 percent of the capital.
Video footage recorded by the Reuters news agency showed Saif al-Islam being greeted by supporters. “To hell with the ICC,” he said, in reference to the International Criminal Court, which has issued a warrant for his arrest. “We assure the people that things are fine in Libya.”
The BBC and CNN quoted him as telling reporters that government forces had lured the rebels into a trap and “broken the back” of the opposition army and that pro-Gaddafi forces are back in control of the city.
I don’t think I believe Seif al-Islam on that one. But his reappearance after multiple reports that he had been captured by the rebel forces unquestionably gave momentum to regime loyalists. Tripoli was supposed to be the site of a nasty fight, street by street, house by house, and that could yet be the case.
NATO made clear they would continue their bombing operations if the fight continues. There are indications, considering that residents of Tripoli rose up before the rebels even got there, that there was a coordinated element to the uprising that caught Gadhafi’s regime off guard. That was enough to nearly drive them out of the capital, but now the government forces are fighting back. This isn’t yet over.
As usual, The Guardian has live updates.