Heba Saleh in Cairo and Reuters:
FT.com / Middle East & North Africa - Tripoli slipping from Gaddafi’s grip: Col Gaddafi’s grip on power appeared to be slipping on Saturday as his regime lost control of parts of Tripoli, after ten days of a leaderless popular uprising inspired by the revolts which ousted the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia. Security forces abandoned the working-class Tajoura district as poor neighbourhoods of the Libyan capital Tripoli openly defied col Gaddafi, Reuters reported. Col Gaddafi’s strongest European ally, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, said that he no longer appeared to be in control of the country. The entire eastern region and parts of western Libya near the border with Tunisia have already slipped from the regime’s grip.
But local witnesses told the Financial Times security forces appeared to be digging in to defend the centre of Tripoli. “The security presence now is all around the city which they have cordoned off to prevent any forces coming from outside,” said Samir, a Tripoli resident. “They have stationed tanks and anti-aircraft guns on roads leading into the city. The other security cordon is around Bab al-Aziziah [Gaddafi residence] there of course he has a whole arsenal of weapons. “The streets are quite and there are few people around. There were some 150 supporters of Gaddafi in Green Square, mostly kids,” he said.
Forces loyal to the embattled leader were also attempting regain territory lost to rebels in other parts of the country. There were battles at an airbase outside Misrata on Saturday morning between pro-Gaddafi forces and the local population supported by units of the army. Regime forces have been attempting since Friday to capture Misrata, the third city in Libya which lies on the coast 200 kilometres east of Tripoli. The civilian airport outside the city which lies on the coast 200 kilometres east of Tripoli was attacked and burnt down by regime forces on Friday, according to Ibrahim an eye witness who spoke to the Financial Times. He said the grounds of the airport were strewn with shells. Gharian an area of Misrata was shelled yesterday on Friday night and the number of casualties is unknown, he said. “We are surrounded by regime forces from all directions,” he said. “We don’t know how many martyrs have fallen. They have also abducted several people.”
With the UN debating sanctions against the regime, Col Gaddafi is now desperate to hold on to Tripoli, home to 2m people, or a third of the population of the north African nation. The city is the centre of the shrinking circle of territory still under the control of the Libyan leader...