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Libyan Rebels Say Gadhafi's Reign Is Over


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has the story from Benghazi.

MUSTAFA ABDUL JALIL: (Speaking foreign language)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: At a news conference, Libyan Transition National Council leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil was blunt when asked when he would declare victory in the rebel battle for Libya. This is his translator.

ABDUL JALIL: (Through Translator) The real moment of victory is when Gadhafi is captured.

SARHADDI NELSON: But where the Libyan leader is remains a mystery. No one knows whether he is still in Tripoli or hiding among his tribesmen in his home town of Sirte on the coast, or in Libya's southern desert. All the rebel officials were equally cautious about saying when the war will end. One senior rebel security official told NPR on background that it will take a while. He said the NATO and rebel plan to liberate Tripoli took three months to craft. With two million residents living in the sprawling coastal capital, the rebels have to brace for, quote, "surprises" the official added, but delaying a formal end to the fighting also helps rebel leaders put off announcing their plans for who will lead Libya after Gadhafi and when the transition council will move to Tripoli.

ABDUL JALIL: (Speaking foreign language)

SARHADDI NELSON: At the news conference, transition council leader Jalil would only say the council will move there when it's, quote, "safe." He and other officials are also vague about who is doing what on the council these days after a shake-up following the murder of the rebel military chief, General Adbel Fattah Younis, nor have they revealed the names of the Tripoli-based members of their leadership team, citing security concerns. Jalil also declined to specify when Libyan rebels engaged in battles across the country might be asked to put down their weapons and return to work.

ABDUL JALIL: (Speaking foreign language)

SARHADDI NELSON: Asked about an exchange of gunfire around one of Gadhafi's son's houses in Tripoli on Sunday, Jalil said through his translator he would step down if the rebels engage in anarchy and revenge.

ABDUL JALIL: (Through Translator) I hail the leaders of these groups and I trust their words, but some of the actions of some of their followers worry me. And these might be the reason or the cause of my resignation.

SARHADDI NELSON: In Benghazi's Liberation Square, where the Libyan uprising began in mid-February, residents seemed unfazed by the questions about the future.


SARHADDI NELSON: Dozens of men and boys played table soccer while nearby children rode on mechanical see-saws.


SARHADDI NELSON: One resident headed to the square carrying a rebel flag in his briefcase was Ismael Sharkazi(ph).

ISMAEL SHARKAZI: (Unintelligible) without any...

SARHADDI NELSON: The 30-year-old who works in the tourist trade says he and others here realize that huge obstacles remain to reuniting Libya. He and other Benghazi residents can't even get to Tripoli at the moment because key cities along the way remain in the hands of pro-Gadhafi forces. Still, Sharkazi says he hopes the council will soon unveil its plans for a new government and move their operations to Tripoli as soon as possible. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Benghazi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.