Politics & Policy

Anti-Gaddafi Protesters Extend Control

The LA Times has summed up the territory Libyan protesters have secured. If this report is accurate, it looks like Gaddafi is running out of time. 

The popular uprising against Moammar Kadafi expanded into an oil-rich area of western Libya long considered one of his strongholds, leaving the long-time leader increasingly isolated and in danger of encirclement as he fights for survival.

Calm was returning to a stretch of eastern Libya seized by the opposition. Residents were restoring basic services in the country’s second-largest city, Benghazi, and setting up informal governing structures.

“The uprising is over. Eastern Libya has all fallen from Kadafi’s power,” said Ashraf Sadaga, who helps oversee a mosque in the coastal city of Derna. At a rally there, one young man held a sign addressing Kadafi: “The people have dug your grave,” it said.

But reports painted a grim picture of western Libya. Terrified residents of the capital, Tripoli, said pro-government militias rampaged through some residential areas, firing automatic weapons from pickup trucks and Land Cruisers.

Crowds fought loyalists in Sabratha, about 40 miles west of Tripoli. The opposition also claimed control of Zuwarah, about 30 miles from the Tunisian border in the west, after local army units sided with the protesters and police fled.

Kadafi’s traditional backing from powerful tribal leaders also is starting to unravel, analysts said, marking a potential turning point. Key among them is the Warfallah tribe, one of Libya’s largest, which is based south of Tripoli. It announced it was joining the movement to oust him.

Residents of Tripoli said the government sent out cellphone text messages urging people to go back to work, insisting life was returning to normal. But protesters reportedly also used texts to urge police, members of the army and others to march on Friday.

Professor Juan Cole offers some edifying commentary on this report. 

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