Libya shows signs of slipping from Muammar Gaddafi’s grasp

The Guardian reports:

Muammar Gaddafi’s regime has shown fresh signs of buckling as rebels have come close to cutting off supply routes and the Libyan interior minister arrived in Egypt in what appeared to be the highest-ranking defection for many months.

The Libyan leader broadcast a defiant appeal to his supporters to rid the country of “traitors”, telling them: “The blood of martyrs is fuel for the battle.” But the call was issued over a poor telephone line to state television, and most was inaudible – the result of what officials said was a technical breakdown.

Gaddafi’s rallying call came as rebel fighters moved into Zawiyah, 30 miles west of Tripoli, straddling a critical road supply route from the Tunisian border. Rebel forces claimed to have near total control of the town, but government troops still held its oil refinery, the regime’s last homegrown supply of fuel. Reuters reported that pro-government snipers in Zawiyah were firing on any civilians who ventured out of doors.

The anti-Gaddafi National Transitional Council (NTC) also claimed to have taken the city of Surman and said it was close to gaining control of Sabratha, along the same coastal road. A rebel spokesman said that talks were under way with government forces over their surrender.

There were clashes near the Ras Ajdir border crossing with Tunisia, and opposition forces were reported to be pushing towards Tripoli from the south having taken the strategic crossroads of Garyan over the weekend. Control of Garyan, in the Nafusah highlands, cuts off Tripoli from the Gaddafi stronghold of Sabha in the south. The multi-pronged offensive was an attempt by rebel commanders to cut off Tripoli’s supply lines and regain the initiative after the killing of their military leader, General Abdul Fattah Younes.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports:

Libya’s rebel-held city of Misrata, under siege by forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi for the past six months, is experiencing something new: traffic jams.

With rebels advancing toward the Libyan capital, Tripoli, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) to the west, honking horns and the voices of children playing in Misrata’s streets have replaced the explosions of incoming rockets and artillery shells.

“We are confident we are safe now,” English student Aisha Alifafer, 20, said in an interview yesterday. “We can go shopping and visit others. In the last six months we could not go outside and see the sun.”

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