Live blog: Gadhafi compound under attack

As Libyan rebels fought to consolidate their hold on Tripoli on Monday and early Tuesday, reports emerged that two sons of Libya’s longtime leader were free despite earlier reports that rebels had captured them.

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, appeared to reporters in a convoy of armored Land Cruisers in Tripoli on Tuesday morning, more than a day after rebels claimed they had captured him. Hours earlier, Libya’s ambassador to the United States said that one of Moammar Gadhafi’s other sons, Mohammed Gadhafi, had escaped.

Here are the latest developments:

[Updated 7:15 a.m. ET, 1:15 p.m. in Libya] The Kingdom of Bahrain has recognized Libya’s National Transitional Council as the country’s “sole legitimate representative,” Bahrain’s state-run news agency reported on Tuesday.

[Updated at 7:01 a.m. ET, 1:01 p.m. in Libya] Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound is under attack, a rebel spokesman and opposition fighters in Tripoli told CNN.

[Updated at 6:56 a.m. ET, 12:56 p.m. in Libya] NATO air operations were continuing over Libya and its capital, Tripoli, on Tuesday to protect civilians in areas where pro-Gadhafi forces may be active, a senior NATO official said.

[Updated at 6:28 a.m. ET, 12:28 p.m. in Libya] A spokesman for the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fadi El Abdallah, tells CNN it did not receive confirmation from the National Transitional Council that Saif al-Islam Gadhafi was in their custody.  But he said the Libyan authorities and Moammar Gadhafi had an obligation to cooperate with the ICC.  “If the suspects go to another state we will seek the cooperation of that state,” he said.

[Updated at 6:12 a.m. ET, 12:12 p.m. in Libya] Al Jazeera reports that truckloads of armed rebel fighters have surrounded Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s Bab al Aziziya compound in Tripoli.

[Updated at 5:36 a.m. ET, 11:36 a.m. in Libya] Explosions heard near Gadhafi’s compound in Tripoli, according to the Al Arabiya Arabic-language news station.

[Updated at 5:32 a.m. ET, 11:32 a.m. in Libya] A missile fired from Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte landed in the sea near the rebel-held city of Misrata Monday evening, NATO said Tuesday. The alliance said it had no reports of damage or injuries, but called the attack a “direct threat to innocent people.”

[Updated at 5:05 a.m. ET, 11:05 a.m. in Libya] A boat that was supposed to evacuate foreign nationals stranded in Tripoli Tuesday will be delayed, the International Organization for Migration said.

The boat, which can carry 300 people, left the Libyan city of Benghazi Monday morning but the deteriorating security situation at Tripoli’s port is causing delays, the organization said in a statement.

[Updated at 4:31 a.m. ET, 10:31 a.m. in Libya] NATO confirmed Tuesday that it has been dropping leaflets in the area of Zawiya, Libya.

One set of leaflets is intended to warn residents to stay away from military activities, NATO said in a statement to CNN. “The other leaflets were aimed at mercenaries fighting for (Gadhafi), encouraging them to give up the fight and to leave Libya.”

The leaflets are in Arabic and French.

[Updated at 4:13 a.m. ET, 10:13 a.m. in Libya] News coming thick and fast now. British Prime Minister David Cameron made a series of calls to world leaders Monday, his office announced Tuesday.

Cameron spoke with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, the Qatari prime minister, and the presidents of the United States and France.

According to Downing Street:

– The calls showed a strong international resolve that Gadhafi needs to go and that it is essential that NATO and its partners play a vital role in protecting civilians

– Strong support for the important role of the National Transitional Council, including responding in a coordinated manner to any requests for assistance from the council once the conflict ends.

[Updated at 4:07 a.m. ET, 10:07 a.m. in Libya] A NATO spokeswoman in Naples, Italy, has reported that one surface-to-surface missile was fired within Libya Tuesday, landing in the sea near the rebel-held city of Misrata.

Earlier, NATO said three missiles had been fired.

[Updated at 3:36 a.m. ET, 9:36 a.m. in Libya] Doctors in Tripoli are overwhelmed, and there are not enough medical supplies, the International Committee of the Red Cross has said.

One clinic “has 40 beds, and all of the beds are taken. Some of the people have been treated or discharged and taken to other houses nearby in order to be treated,” said the ICRC’s Robin Waudo in Libya’s capital.

[Updated at 2:30 a.m. ET, 8:30 a.m. in Libya] New details on the battle for Tripoli according to an opposition supporter who spoke to CNN’s Rosemary Church and Jonathan Mann.

According to the opposition supporter, identified as “Ehab,” the rebels set up sleeper cells in various neighborhoods across Tripoli. A “supervisor” was designated, who reported to a “commander.”

Ehab says the eastern side of Tripoli is under rebel control. And adds that among the areas still in regime control include the Rixos Hotel/Bab al-Aziziya compound and the Bouslim neighborhood – home of the notorious Bouslim prison and one of the poorest sections of Tripoli.

When asked about who was in control of “Martyrs” Square, Ehab said that on Sunday/Monday, emotions overtook the fighters, so they rushed into the Square though they already knew that snipers were set up on rooftops of the buildings lining the square.

The rebels retreated, Ehad said, because of snipers and because it is a high priority for the rebels is to keep all families inside their homes and safe.

Ehad also told CNN that the opposition will not storm Gadhafi’s Bab Al-Aziziya compound until NATO gives the go-ahead. “There should be some airstrikes as far as we know,” he said. “We are hoping there will be a big bombardment in that area before.”

[Updated at 12:30 a.m. ET, 6:30 a.m. in Libya] Good morning, the battle for Tripoli entered a new day Tuesday, with the whereabouts of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi still not known. Here’s a recap of where things stand:

PREVIOUSLY REPORTED

– Two of Gadhafi’s sons, who had been reported captured over the weekend, were free early Tuesday. Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges, spoke briefly to CNN at the Rixos Hotel, one of the remaining pro-Gadhafi bastions in Tripoli.

– Mohammed Gadhafi escaped from rebel custody Monday, Libyan Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujali told CNN.

– There was no explanation from the National Transitional Council, the rebel leadership, which had announced the capture of both Gadhafi sons.

– Renewed fighting could be heard around Zawiya, about 30 miles west of the capital. The town was a strategic stepping stone for the rebel advance into Tripoli over the weekend.

– The situation in Libya “is still very fluid,” U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday. “There remains a degree of uncertainty and there are still regime elements who pose a threat.”

– The U.S. State Department is “focused like a laser” on the issue of getting funding to the rebels’ National Transitional Council, department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday. Nuland did not specify how much money could be provided, but said it would go toward “humanitarian needs” and “maintenance of essential services.”

– Several U.S. politicians called on Libyan officials to take action against Abdel Basset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the convicted bomber of Pan Am Flight 103. Al-Megrahi was the only person convicted over the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people. He was released from a Scottish prison in 2009.

– United Nations officials have not been able to contact Moammar Gadhafi, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters Monday. “We’ve been trying to get in touch with him,” Ban said, adding that he did not know Gadhafi’s whereabouts.

– Ban said he plans to hold an urgent high-level meeting this week to discuss the situation with several regional organizations, including the African Union, the League of Arab States and the European Union.

– Libyan rebels have taken control of the country’s state television network, Rebel TV reported. The Libyan state network was broadcasting a black screen.

[Updated at 11:39 p.m. ET, 5:39 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] Three surface-to-surface missiles were fired within Libya on Monday evening, NATO said in a statement. The alliance said it was not aware of damages or casualties.
The missiles were fired from the area of Sirte, the hometown of Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi. Initial reports indicate they landed in the coastal area of Misrata, “most likely at sea or on the shore,” NATO said.

“The use of such missiles presents a direct threat to innocent people. Although the surface-to-surface missiles in (Gadhafi’s) arsenal are highly inaccurate, and are not designed to hit a specific target, they are a weapon of terror. Their use against an urban or industrial area is utterly irresponsible,” NATO said.

[Updated at 8:56 p.m. ET, 2:56 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] CNN’s Matthew Chance has posted a picture that he took of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi during Saif’s brief visit to the Rixos Hotel on Tuesday morning.

Chance also reports that electricity returned to the  hotel about 10 minutes after Saif’s visit. The building, where about 35 international journalists are staying, had been without power for hours.

It’s not yet known how many people have been killed or injured in Tripoli since rebels began fighting forces loyal to Gadhafi in the capital over the weekend.

[Updated at 8:22 p.m. ET, 2:22 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] More information about tonight’s appearance in Tripoli of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, who rebels claimed was captured on Sunday:

Video showed Saif al-Islam, son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and a top official in his regime, shaking hands and greeting supporters overnight while leaning outside of a car in his armored convoy on the streets of Tripoli. He told reporters that supporters of his father Moammar Gadhafi’s government “have broken the spines of those rats and those gangsters” – referring to rebel fighters who entered the capital over the weekend.

He said that on Tuesday the government’s forces “will reassure the people that things are fine in Tripoli.”

Asked about his being wanted by the International Criminal Court – which has issued a warrant for his arrest for his alleged participation in “crimes against humanity” – Saif al-Islam Gadhafi said, “To hell with the ICC.”

Rebels had claimed that Saif al-Islam Gadhafi and two of his brothers were captured on Sunday and Monday. But Saif is free, and one of the other two, Mohammed Gadhafi, was reported to have escaped Monday, according to the Libyan ambassador to the United States.

[Updated at 8:06 p.m. ET, 2:06 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] More from Saif al-Islam Gadhafi’s appearance outside Tripoli’s Rixos Hotel, more than a day after rebels reported they captured him: Saif said that word about his supposed detention was a rebel trick, CNN’s Matthew Chance reports.

Chance, who is with about 35 other journalists at the hotel, said an armored Land Cruiser pulled up to the hotel, and people were saying that Saif was inside. “It was just about to drive off, so I went up to it and I knocked on the window and said, ‘Dr. Saif, Dr. Saif, can you open the door? We want to … make sure it’s you,” Chance said.

“He opened the door, turned the lights on inside the back of this armored land cruiser, and it was indeed him. He was bearded, he looked quite thin. … He told me that his father, Col. Gadhafi, remained in Tripoli. He said the whole family are in Tripoli.”

Chance has posted this account of his encounter with Saif on Twitter: “Saif Gadhafi told me that he had been travelling around Tripoli in an armored convoy the whole time.”

Earlier, Libya’s ambassador to the United States told CNN that another of Gadhafi’s sons, Mohammad Gadhafi, had escaped from rebel custody. The circumstances of the escape were unclear, said Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujali, an NTC representative.

Rebels had said Saif al-Islam Gadhafi and Mohammad Gadhafi were among three of Moammar Gadhafi’s sons that they had captured since Sunday.

[Updated at 7:40 p.m. ET, 1:40 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] Moammar Gadhafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi who reportedly was captured by rebel forces on Sunday made an appearance at Tripoli’s Rixos Hotel early Tuesday, CNN’s Matthew Chance reports.

Saif appeared outside the hotel – one of the remaining hold-outs for Gadhafi loyalists – in a convoy of armored Land Cruisers. Chance said he spoke to Saif briefly and took a photo of him.

Saif said his father and the rest of the family were in Tripoli, and that the rebels had been “lured into a trap.”

There was no immediate explanation from the National Transitional Council, the rebel leadership that had announced he was in custody on Sunday.

Earlier, Libya’s ambassador to the United States told CNN that another of Gadhafi’s sons, Mohammad Gadhafi, had escaped from rebel custody. The circumstances of the escape were unclear, said Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujali, an NTC representative.

[Updated at 6:35 p.m. ET, 12:35 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] CNN’s Matthew Chance reports says he and the roughly 35 other journalists in Tripoli’s Rixos Hotel – where they are essentially trapped, with Gadhafi loyalists refusing to let them leave as fighting rages outside – are running out of ways to keep in contact with people elsewhere, including their own employers.

The hotel lost power hours ago, and the journalists – who have corralled themselves in the dark in a lobby on one of the upper floors – are running out of battery power for their phones and other equipment. Chance, whose own phones are dead, talked to CNN with a satellite phone lent by a Chinese television crew.

Gunfire could still be heard outside the hotel, which is abandoned besides the journalists and gunmen loyal to Gadhafi. Fighting also appeared to happening around Gadhafi’s compound near the hotel, Chance said.

The journalists have found some canned food and bottled water in the hotel’s storerooms and kitchen. “Hopefully we can … negotiate some kind of exit from this hotel, because really we don’t feel we’re getting much in terms of an overall picture of what’s happening in Tripoli.”

He said they’re trying to stay away from the gunmen in the hotel, some of whom were cocking their guns and telling the reporters that they’re NATO spies.

[Updated at 6:21 p.m. ET, 12:21 a.m. Tuesday in Libya] Gadhafi’s forces fired at least three missiles at the rebel-held city of Misrata, east of Tripoli, on Monday evening, the NATO alliance reported. NATO said it had no reports of damage or injuries, but called the launches a “direct threat to innocent people.”

“Although the surface-to-surface missiles in Gadhafi’s arsenal are highly inaccurate, and are not designed to hit a specific target, they are a weapon of terror,” NATO said. “Their use against an urban or industrial area is utterly irresponsible.”

[Updated at 5:50 p.m. ET, 11:50 p.m. in Libya] Mohammed Gadhafi – one of the three sons of the longtime Libyan leader who had been captured by rebel forces – has escaped, Libyan Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujali told CNN.

The ambassador told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that after rebels found Mohammad Gadhafi at his home, he was allowed to stay there at his request. Later, Mohammad Gadhafi was “hijacked” by a different group, “maybe Gadhafi’s forces,” the ambassador said.

“We don’t know the story how he was taken out from his house,” he said.

[Updated at 5:02 p.m. ET, 11:02 p.m. in Libya] With rebels apparently on the verge of taking Tripoli, politicians in the United States and the United Kingdom are demanding that they extradite convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi when the rebels establish control over the country, CNN’s Tim Lister reports.

There has been no formal response from the rebels’ National Transitional Council, but one of its representatives has previously suggested that any decision on al-Megrahi’s future would have to wait for an elected government in Libya. On the NTC’s own timetable that would be almost two years away.

Al-Megrahi was released from the jail on compassionate grounds in 2009 after serving eight years of a 27-year sentence for his involvement in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988 over Lockerbie, Scotland. He is suffering from prostate cancer and at the time of his release was given just three months to live. But two years later he is still alive and was last known to be living in Tripoli, now largely under rebel control.

[Updated at 4:52 p.m. ET, 10:52 p.m. in Libya] The U.S. and NATO have been quietly talking to National Transitional Council officials for the last several weeks about securing Libya’s remaining stockpiles of mustard gas and other weapons material in the event the Gadhafi regime fell, U.S. officials say, according to CNN’s Barbara Starr.

“The opposition forces are being asked to keep track of what’s going on” with both weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the regime’s inventory of surface-to-air missiles, a NATO official said.

The official also confirmed that intelligence personnel from the U.S. and other countries have been in Libya in recent weeks to help maintain security at various sites, although he could not confirm Western personnel are currently at those locations. “Individual nations have folks on the ground,” he said.

[Updated at 4:19 p.m. ET, 10:19 p.m. in Libya] U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke Monday about Libya and “agreed that the situation had reached a tipping point and that (Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi) needed to relinquish power once and for all,” according to a statement from the White House.

“At the same time, they agreed to continue to work with allies and partners in the international community to protect the people of Libya and to support a peaceful transition to democracy,” the statement said. “The prime minister joined the president in urging the (Libyan rebels’) Transitional National Council to continue demonstrating its leadership by respecting the rights of the people of Libya, avoiding civilian casualties, protecting the institutions of the Libyan state, and pursuing a transition to democracy that is just and inclusive for all of the people of Libya.”

(news.blogs.cnn.com / 23.08.2011)

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