Rumor: Qaddafi Has Fled Tripoli as Rebels Close In On Capital

The rebels are moving in on Tripoli today after taking the key city of Zawiya nearby.

Bloomberg reported on the latest developments:

Libyan rebels said they’ve begun an offensive to free Tripoli from Muammar Qaddafi’s control five months after the U.S. first launched airstrikes against the leader of the North African nation.

Rebels attacked Qaddafi forces in the capital last night, fighting in the Souk Al-Jumma market area and Tajoura, an eastern suburb, Al Jazeera reported. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization carried out airstrikes against Qaddafi’s Scud missile launchers and residents received text messages urging them to join the rebellion, Al Jazeera said.

“The decisive battle to liberate Tripoli started,” Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a rebel brigade commander, said in an interview with Al Jazeera. “I would like to tell our families inside the capital that we are coming and call upon Qaddafi’s troops to abandon their weapons tonight and to join us to get rid of Qaddafi and his regime.”

There are also reports that Qaddafi has already fled Tripoli with his two sons.
The Wire reported:

Tension have been mounting in Libya today, with rebel forces encircling the capital Tripoli, causing Qaddafi to lose his grip, according to the New York Times. “By Saturday afternoon, the rebels had driven Colonel Qaddafi’s forces out of the strategic oil refinery town of Zawiyah, 30 miles west of Tripoli. After a week of heavy fighting there, residents began to celebrate in the main square.” Although, in Tripoli, still a Qaddafi stronghold, government officials “continued to insist that they would fight to the end,” the Times wrote that “rumors swept Libya that [Qaddafi] was preparing to flee, if he had not already.”

Now the rumors are turning into reports. NBC New Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel tweeted: “BREAKING: Libyan TV reporting Qaddafi has fled with two sons.” Engel also added: “odd no reports of seif having fled, only hanibam was moatasim,” in reference to his sons. Other reports on Twitter are that Qaddafi left “aboard a private aircraft with two of his sons.” We will update with further information as it comes in.

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