Monthly Archives: February 2019
Libyan rebels have surged into Tripoli in a final drive to oust Muammar Gaddafi, seizing swathes of the capital including symbolic Green Square and arresting the strongman’s son, Seif al-Islam.
However, senior rebel figure Mahmud Jibril said there were still pockets of resistance in and around Tripoli and warned his forces to be cautious.
“The fight is not over yet,” he said on rebel television Al-Ahrar. “God willing, in few hours our victory will be complete.”
Watch Al Jazeera’s live stream from Tripoli (link not available on apps)
In an interview, gunfire is heard in the near bacground as Seif al-Islam tries to talk to al Jazeera.
Thousands of residents poured onto the streets to welcome the rebels, congregating at the site which they renamed Martyrs Square near the water front in the centre of Tripoli.
Sky News showed scenes of jubilant crowds gathered there, many waving the red, black and green flag of anti-regime forces, dancing in joy and shouting Allahu Akbar (God is greatest). Some fired rifles into the air.
As many of the men flashed V-for-victory signs and shouted “tell Muammar (Gaddafi) and his sons that Libya has men,” a Sky correspondent said people were lighting fires with posters of the Libyan strongman and the solid green flag of the regime that they had torn down.
Similar scenes of jubilation were witnessed in Benghazi, the rebels’ bastion in the east, where delirious residents danced and proclaimed the end of the regime of the “tyrant” Gaddafi.
While Gaddafi spoke to the nation three times on Sunday in audio recordings, his whereabouts were unknown.
But the strongman vowed not to surrender, even as NATO said his regime was crumbling and Britain predicted “the end was near” for the 69-year-old leader, who has kept a tight grip on power in his oil-rich North African nation for almost 42 years.
As the rebels boasted they would take full control of Tripoli during the night, Gaddafi issued his third message of the day, urging the people of Tripoli to “purge the capital.”
Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told a press conference that 1,300 people have been killed in the rebel assault on the capital, describing the fighting as a “real tragedy.”
But there was no independent confirmation of the casualty toll, nor any immediate indication of how much resistance may have been put up against the rebels’ entry into the capital.
‘REGIME STILL STRONG’
Ibrahim insisted that Libya’s regime “is still strong and thousands of volunteers and soldiers are ready to fight” although the reality on the ground seemed to belie his boasts.
In The Hague, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor confirmed that Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam, for whom the ICC had issued arrest warrants for crimes against humanity, is in detention.
“I have received confidential information stating he has been arrested,” Luis Moreno-Ocampo told AFP.
“We hope he can soon be in the Hague” to face justice, he said, adding that he planned to contact the “Libyan transitional government” later in the day.
Moreno-Ocampo said the ICC “is ready to help Libyans to deal with their difficult past” and ensure that “no crime remains unpunished”.
Earlier, the chairman of Libya’s rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) told Al-Jazeera television from Benghazi he had “information that Seif al-Islam has been captured”.
“He is being kept in a secure place under close guard until he is handed over to the judiciary,” Mustafa Abdel Jalil said, without say when or where Gaddafi’s son had been captured.
Describing their surprise assault, rebel leaders said an advance party of fighters had arrived by sea in the capital early Sunday and joined sleeper cells of rebels to launch the final drive, codenamed “Mermaid.”
Another rebel force advanced on the capital from the west, moving in a convoy of around 100 vehicles as onlookers fired celebratory gunfire into the air, an AFP correspondent said.
By afternoon they had overrun the eastern suburb of Tajura and boasted that they would seize control of the capital during the night.
It was still not clear how much of the capital the rebels had seized, but it appeared they had taken over the headquarters of the Libyana mobile telephone company, located in Tajura.
Libyana clients received a message on their mobiles from the NTC “congratulating the Libyan people for the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.”
At the same time, Tripoli residents told AFP that Internet connection had been reestablished for the first time since the outbreak of the revolution in February.
Meanwhile, a rebel party took over an army barracks at a western entrance to Tripoli, raiding the stores of missiles and other ammunition, AFP correspondents at the scene said.
They also released dozens of prisoners held in Maya, 25 kilometres (15 miles) west of Tripoli, they said.
A rebel spokesman said the insurgents were also tightening the noose around loyalist forces in the far west of Libya, near the Tunisian border.
Throughout the day Sunday, Gaddafi was adamant he would not relinquish power.
He vowed not to surrender and boasted he would “emerge victorious” in the battle for Tripoli.
“We will not, we will not abandon Tripoli to the occupants and their agents. I am with you in this battle,” he said in an audio message broadcast on television in the afternoon.
“We do not surrender and, by God’s grace, we will emerge victorious.”
He called on his supporters to “march on Tajura in tens of thousands to purge the officials of the colonisers,” in a reference to the NATO-backed rebels.
Earlier, he had aired a message urging supporters to “march by the millions” to liberate cities held by “traitors and rats.”
And in a third audio message broadcast on state television late at night, he said the people should “go out now to purge the capital,” adding that there was “no place for the agents of colonialism in Tripoli and Libya.”
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said early Monday Gaddafi’s rule in Libya is “clearly crumbling.”
“The Gaddafi regime is clearly crumbling. The sooner Gaddafi realises that he cannot win the battle against his own people, the better — so that the Libyan people can be spared further bloodshed and suffering,” he said in a statement.
And as it looked as if Gaddafi’s rule was now to be measured in hours and not days Jibril urged rebels to act with magnanimity toward the vanquished.
“The world is watching us,” he added. “Do not avenge yourselves.”
“Today, as we celebrate victory, I appeal to your conscience and to your responsibility: don’t get carried away. Do not avenge yourselves, don’t pillage, don’t insult foreigners and respect the prisoners.”
He took particular pains to refer to those close to Gaddafi who might be captured.
“Prove that we are up the responsibility to protect them and their lives,” he said.
He called on people to pull together “to achieve democracy and to build the new Libya, remembering all the people who give their lives in this war.”
IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, locked up in a New York jail for alleged sexual assault, faced growing pressure Tuesday as US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said he should no longer lead the powerful financial institution.
“He’s obviously not in the position to run the IMF,” Geithner said in response to a question at a New York conference.
It was the first public comments by the Treasury secretary about Strauss-Kahn, who has denied all charges as he prepares to spend his second night in New York’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex. He faces a long prison sentence if convicted.
IMF spokesman William Murray said the Washington-based organization has not been in touch with Strauss-Kahn since his arrest in the first-class section of an Air France jet Saturday afternoon.
“We have not had contact with the managing director since his arrest in New York,” Murray said in a statement.
“Obviously, it will be important to be in contact with him in due course. We are aware of widespread speculation about the managing director’s status.”
Strauss-Kahn is accused of sexually assaulting a maid who entered his room at the Sofitel Hotel believing it was empty.
The 62-year-old allegedly emerged from the shower naked and tried to force himself on the woman, who was eventually able to fend off the attacks and run out of the room.
The 32-year-old woman has not been identified, and has not spoken publicly about the alleged incident. But her lawyer Jeff Shapiro told CNN that his client was suffering from “extraordinary” trauma.
On Monday, a judge refused to grant bail to the head of the International Monetary Fund, saying he posed a flight risk because he might try to escape to France. A grand jury is due to convene to decide whether there is enough evidence in the accusations to proceed to trial.
Grand jury proceedings are secret and a spokeswoman for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office would not comment on progress. A new court hearing is due Friday.
Brother: she’s in tears
Meanwhile, a man who says he is the maid’s brother said she was in floods of tears after the alleged assault.
“Something bad just happened. She was crying. She did not stop crying,” said the man, whom AFP did not name to protect the identity of the maid.
Noting that his sister was a Muslim, the man said “she was completely devastated. She was with the doctor and the police when she called me on Saturday afternoon.”
He also said that the maid not known who her alleged attacker was. “She didn’t know who Dominique Strauss-Kahn was at the time of the incident. I was the one who explained it to her,” the man said.
His identity and statements could not be independently confirmed.
In New York’s Bronx borough, neighbors of the alleged victim spoke of a quiet woman who lives with her daughter and makes the commute from her working class neighborhood to swanky Times Square.
“I know (her) since she moved here about six months (ago). She is nice, a nice girl, hard working woman and I saw her pretty much every day when she goes away to do this job and it is a nice family, her and her daughter, they live together,” the building supervisor told AFP.
Strauss Kahn’s turmoil
Whatever happens this week, the bottom has fallen out of Strauss-Kahn’s world.
Until the alleged assault took place in his luxury Sofitel suite last weekend, the silver-haired Frenchman was a global VIP, enjoying a glamorous lifestyle and dealing with the world’s most powerful leaders.
He was also widely seen as the man who could unseat President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 elections.
Now he remains in a single cell on New York City’s Rikers Island, along with thousands of others caught up in the criminal justice system, most of them too poor to afford their bail and a few, like Strauss-Kahn, who are considered a flight risk.
In France, Strauss-Kahn continues to enjoy some backing from supporters circulating conspiracy theories that he may have been set up. Many others have chosen to remain silent on the hugely embarrassing affair.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon, however, was quoted saying there could be “no excuse” if the allegations were true. It would be “a very serious act,” he said.
Fillon was the most senior French politician to be quoted explicitly outlining a position on the alleged crime.
Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers have promised a “vigorous” defense.
During the bail hearing, the chief line of defense centered on assertions that Strauss-Kahn did not try to flee the country as alleged, and that he went out to lunch immediately after the time of the alleged crime.
This timeline, lawyers say, indicates that he had nothing to hide and was not in a panic, as police and prosecutors have suggested.
In court, lawyer Ben Brafman said the evidence “will not be consistent with a forcible encounter,” but he did not elaborate and did not suggest consent. Prosecutors, however, say they have physical evidence, including a doctor’s exam made immediately after the incident indicating attempted rape.
Thirteen medics were sentenced to 15 years in jail for their roles in pro-reform protests crushed in mid-March, two others to 10 years and five to five years, the BNA state news agency cited a prosecutor as saying.
The medics all worked at the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama, which was stormed by security forces after they drove protesters on March 16 out of the nearby Pearl Square – the focal point of protests inspired by uprisings that have swept the Arab world.
The medics included 13 doctors, one dentist, nurses and paramedics. Many of them spoke to the international media about the crackdown on the mostly Shia protesters.
The convictions of the medics comes one day after the convictions of 21 opposition leaders, clerics, activists and bloggers were upheld, the Washington Post reported.
The national safety court in which they were tried was set up under a three-month quasi-emergency law declared by King Hamad ahead of the crackdown on the protests led by the Shiite majority of the Sunni-ruled Gulf nation.
London-based advocacy group Amnesty International termed the verdicts against the medics a “travesty of justice.”
“We are deeply disturbed by the sentencing today of 20 medical professionals by the National Safety Court in Bahrain,” deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.
The US’s 5th fleet is hosted in the Gulf State which sits just across the water from Shia Iran. Keen to exert influence in the region, which has grown since the US invasion of Iraq, members of Iran’s parliament yesterday urged the UN to launch missions in Bahrain, as well as Yemen, the Fars News agency reports.
An editorial in the Washington Post called on the Obama administration to examine its relationship with the regime, not least following the Pentagon’s recent notification of plans to sell armoured cars and anti-tank missiles to Bahrain worth US$53m.
“We continue to urge the Bahraini government to abide by its commitment to transparent judicial proceedings, including a fair trial, access to attorneys, and verdicts based on credible evidence conducted in full accordance with Bahraini law and Bahrain’s international legal obligations,” Toner said
Toner also said Washington was concerned about the “trials of civilians, including medical personnel, in military courts and the fairness of those proceedings”.
“We call on the government of Bahrain and all citizens to create a climate conducive for reconciliation, meaningful dialogue, and reform that … will bring peaceful change that is responsive to the aspirations of all Bahrainis,” he added.
MEN – FIRST ROUND
Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) bt Michael Russell (USA) 6-4, 6-2, 6-2
Ryan Sweeting (USA) bt Pablo Andujar (ESP) 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7/1), 6-1
Gilles Muller (LUX) bt Tommy Haas (GER) 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 6-3
Milos Raonic (CAN x31) bt Marc Gicquel (FRA) 6-3, 7-6 (7/3), 6-3
Dudi Sela (ISR) bt Frederico Gil (POR) 6-4, 6-1, 6-4
Mardy Fish (USA x10) bt Marcel Granollers (ESP) 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/5), 6-4
Denis Istomin (UZB) bt Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3
Alex Bogomolov Jr.
(USA) bt Donald Young (USA) 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
Julien Benneteau (FRA) bt Ruben Bemelmans (BEL) 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1
Tomas Berdych (CZE x6) bt Filippo Volandri (ITA) 6-2, 6-2, 6-1
Richard Gasquet (FRA x17) bt Santiago Giraldo (COL) 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (7/3)
Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) bt Igor Sijsling (NED) 6-3, 6-4, 6-2
Simone Bolelli (ITA) bt Martin Fischer (AUT) 7-5, 6-4, 6-4
Stanislas Wawrinka (SWI x14) bt Potito Starace (ITA) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
Gael Monfils (FRA x9) bt Matthias Bachinger (GER) 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 6-3
Grega Zemlja (SLO) bt Lukas Lacko (SVK) 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-4
Rainer Schuettler (GER) bt Thomaz Belluci (BRA x30) 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 6-2
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) bt Michael Berrer (GER) 6-4, 7-5, 6-3
WOMEN – FIRST ROUND
Francesca Schiavone (ITA x6) bt Jelena Dokic (AUS) 6-4, 1-6, 6-3
Christina McHale (USA) bt Ekaterina Makarova (RUS x28) 2-6, 6-1, 8-6
Ksenia Pervak (RUS) bt Shahar Peer (ISR x22) 5-7, 6-4, 6-4
Pauline Parmentier (FRA) bt Sorana Cirstea (ROM) 6-1, 6-3
Sara Errani (ITA) bt Kaia Kanepi (EST x17) 6-1, 6-4
Yanina Wickmayer (BEL x19) bt Varvara Lepchenko (USA) 7-5, 6-3
Anna Tatishvili (GEO) bt Anastasia Pivovarova (RUS) 3-6, 6-2, 6-3
Alexandra Dulgheru (ROM) bt Jill Craybas (USA) 6-2, 6-4
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS x12) bt Shuai Zhang (CHN) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
Monica Niculescu (ROM) bt Sybille Bammer (AUT) 6-1, 6-1
Kimiko Date Krumm (JPN) bt Katie O’Brien (GBR) 6-0, 7-5
Venus Williams (USA x23) bt Akgul Amanmuradova (UZB) 6-3, 6-1
Elena Vesnina (RUS) bt Laura Pous (ESP) 6-4, 6-3
Vera Zvonareva (RUS x2) bt Alison Riske (USA) 6-0, 3-6, 6-3
Libya’s former rebel leaders basked in praise Tuesday at the United Nations while fugitive strongman Muammar Gaddafi issued an audio message calling the new government a “charade.
With the new Libyan flag flying at the UN headquarters, interim government leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil thanked all nations who aided with the “success of the Libyan revolution,” which he revealed had left at least 25,000 dead.
US President Barack Obama hailed a “new chapter” for Libya as the victorious rebels’ red, black and green flag was hoisted at the United Nations ahead of the annual General Assembly.
But Obama warned Gaddafi loyalists still putting up resistance in their remaining bastions to lay down their arms, promising that NATO-led air strikes would continue as long as the fighters remained a threat.
OBAMA JOINS JALIL
“Today, the Libyan people are writing a new chapter in the life of their nation,” the US president told world leaders at a UN meeting on Libya being held on the sidelines of the General Assembly.
“After four decades of darkness, they can walk the streets, free from a tyrant,” he told the meeting.
Credit for the “liberation of Libya, belongs to the people of Libya,” he insisted, but stressed the international community was not pulling out yet.
“So long as the Libyan people are being threatened, the NATO-led mission to protect them will continue. And those still holding out must understand the old regime is over, and it is time to lay down your arms and join the new Libya,” the US commander-in-chief said.
Obama met Jalil, Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) chief, for the first time Tuesday and the US leader said the focus should also now turn to a democratic transition after 42 years of dictatorship, including “free and fair elections.”
The United Nations and world leaders all promised to help the new government with its campaign to take remaining territory held by Gaddafi fighters and to rebuild the country and organize elections.
“For the past seven months, you have fought courageously for your fundamental rights and freedoms,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Jalil as he launched the summit.
Amid new battles for towns still in the hands of Gaddafi loyalists, Ban said “the first priority must be peace and security.”
Jalil praised the NATO-led coalition for its assistance in the uprising in which he said some 25,000 people had died, and he promised fair trials for captured members of the ousted regime.
The new Libyan leader vowed that the new government would be a “vibrant” democracy that respects regional peace and security.
The NTC chairman said many Gaddafi regime members had been detained and some had been freed again. Many would face justice but Jalil insisted all would get a “fair trial.”
Jalil told Obama that Gaddafi was still in the country, according to a US official.
Derek Chollet, senior director for strategic planning on the National Security Council, also said it was important for Libyans to track down Gaddafi in order to move on from his brutal rule.
SARKOZY SPELLS OUT ACTION
French President Nicolas Sarkozy made a plea for support in all of the Arab countries where people have stood up against strongarm leaders.
“When we saw the people taking to the Arab streets to call for liberty and democracy we took some time to respond as we were astonished at what we were seeing” in Tunisia, Egypt and then Libya, Sarkozy said.
He said the Arab demonstrations had given the international community a “responsibility to take action.”
Sarkozy indicated that the action in Libya and UN action in Ivory Coast this year should be a warning to other strongarm leaders.
“Henceforth the international community is not just going to speak, but will take action and where necessary will take action with weapons in their hands in the service of democracy,” he told the summit.
Meanwhile, Gaddafi told his remaining loyalists in Libya that the new regime was only temporary.
“What is happening in Libya is a charade which can only take place thanks to the (NATO-led) air raids, which will not last forever,” he said in the message aired by Syria-based Arrai television.
“Do not rejoice and don’t believe that one regime has been overthrown and another imposed with the help of air and maritime strikes,” Gaddafi added.
The recording was the first by Gaddafi since September 8, when he denied reports he had fled to Algeria or Niger.
It was released after the new regime’s forces said they captured the airport and a garrison in his southern redoubt of Sabha, and fighting raged in two of his northern strongholds.
The NTC fighters pushed on to within 25 kilometers (15 miles) of the Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte on Tuesday, establishing a new frontline where intense artillery and heavy machine-gun exchanges erupted, an AFP correspondent reported.
The African Union, which had long held out against according Libya’s seat to the NTC, on Tuesday finally announced it was recognizing the new leadership after weeks of foot-dragging that had caused divisions on the continent.