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Libyans Celebrate Gadhafi’s Evident End

TRIPOLI, Libya, Aug. 22 (UPI) — Libyans celebrated the evident end of Moammar Gadhafi’s 42-year rule Monday and U.S. President Barack Obama said their country’s future was now in their hands.

As Libyans rejoiced in central Tripoli, ripping down and trampling Gadhafi posters, and in Benghazi, the capital of the rebel-controlled eastern part of the country, the rebel leadership announced that the elite presidential guard protecting Gadhafi had surrendered but that Gadhafi appeared to have fled Tripoli, al-Jazeera reported.

Al-Jazeera’s report was not immediately corroborated and Gadhafi’s whereabouts were unclear Monday morning.

Rebel spokesmen said early Monday their fighters had surrounded the Bab al-Aziziya military barracks and compound that served as Gadhafi’s main base location but had not attacked it.

The 2-square-mile base, whose control was also unclear, is located in Tripoli’s southern suburbs at the northern end of a highway that offers easy access to the city and Tripoli International Airport.

Gadhafi had issued a series of defiant audio statements overnight calling on people to “save Tripoli” from the rebel offensive. He said Libyans were becoming “slaves of the imperialists.”

“We will fight to the last drop of blood,” he said in one statement. “We will never give up.”

The rebels who marched into the capital Sunday also held two of Gadhafi’s sons, arresting former heir-apparent Seif al-Islam in a western Tripoli tourist village and accepting the surrender of Gadhafi’s oldest son Mohammed.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi is wanted on an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court in the Hague, The Netherlands, on crimes-against-humanity charges.

Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said after the arrest the court would speak with the council, the rebels’ governing body, about transferring Seif al-Islam Gadhafi to the Hague.

Mohammed Gadhafi told al-Jazeera by telephone in a contrite interview an “absence of wisdom and foresight” had caused Libya’s revolution and crisis.

“Our differences could have been solved easily,” he said, adding he had “never been a government or security official.”

The interview ended with the sound of gunfire and Mohammed Gadhafi hung up after saying, “There is no God but Allah — no God but Allah — and Muhammad is his messenger.”

But a council spokesman said Mohammed Gadhafi had not been harmed and would remain safe.

After gaining control of most of Tripoli, the council issued a mass text message saying: “We congratulate the Libyan people for the fall of Moammar Gadhafi and call on the Libyan people to go into the street to protect the public property. Long live free Libya.”

Sporadic clashes between rebels and government troops persisted early Monday.

Obama said Sunday night Gadhafi and his inner circle had “to recognize that their rule has come to an end” and called on Gadhafi “to relinquish power once and for all.”

He also called on the transition council to avoid civilian casualties and protect state institutions as it took control of the country and to pursue “a transition to democracy that is just and inclusive for all of the people of Libya.”

“The future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people,” Obama said, vowing the United States would work closely with the council and “continue to insist that the basic rights of the Libyan people are respected.”

Earlier in the day, the rebels overran a major military base defending the capital, carted away truckloads of weapons and raced to Tripoli with virtually no resistance.

A separate group of rebels waged a fierce battle near the Rixos Hotel, a bastion of Gadhafi support near the city center.

UPI - United Press International, Inc.

Since 1907, United Press International (UPI) has been a leading provider of critical information to media outlets, businesses, governments and researchers worldwide.

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