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Evidence Of Gadhafi's Downfall On Display In East

GUY RAZ, host:

As we mentioned earlier, Gadhafi's control over Libya appears to be shrinking to a zone around the capital, Tripoli. Elsewhere, it's a different story.

NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from the Eastern Libyan city of Tobruk.

JASON BEAUBIEN: In the main square of Tobruk, people already talk about the Libyan revolution of last week in the past tense. It's done. It's over. Gadhafi is never coming back, people say, even as the man who has ruled Libya for 42 years clings to power in the capital.

The square is surrounded on all sides by evidence of Gadhafi's downfall. The police station is burned out. A concrete monument to Gadhafi's political and social philosophy, his Green Book, has been smashed. The red, black and green flag of the Libyan King Idris, whom Gadhafi overthrew in a coup in 1969, flies from the minaret of the mosque.

Abdul Rahman says Gadhafi destroyed Libya.

Mr. ABDUL RAHMAN: I think that after Gadhafi, Libya will be very, very, very, very, very good.

BEAUBIEN: He says Gadhafi has squandered the nation's oil wealth and ruled Libya based on this own personal whims. Protests began here in Tobruk on February 17th. And within two days, Gadhafi's security forces had either fled or joined the opposition.

Schools and most businesses remain shut. Food stores and bakeries are still open, but the government no longer exists here. The courthouse and Gadhafi's main administrative office complex are now abandoned.

(Soundbite of chanting)

BEAUBIEN: In the main square this afternoon, young men gave a hero's welcome to an old revolutionary who just returned from exile. Omar Hariri fled Libya after a failed coup attempt in 1975.

(Soundbite of chanting)

BEAUBIEN: The grey-haired Hariri came to express his solidarity with the young people in the square.

(Soundbite of gunfire)

BEAUBIEN: Soon, several military officers in army fatigues who are now backing the revolution arrived firing their AK-47s into the air to welcome Hariri.

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Hariri said a young people's revolution cannot be stopped in Libya or in Egypt or in Tunisia. The main square of Tobruk bustled with men and children. But then in marched a cluster of women, many of them in long black robes with their eyes visible only through slits in their veils.

(Soundbite of chanting)

BEAUBIEN: The women had also come to call for Gadhafi to step down.

Ms. FAIZA IBRAHIM (School Teacher): Go out, Moammar. Enough. It's over. It's over.

BEAUBIEN: Faiza Ibrahim, a school teacher, said Gadhafi has no control here in her city anymore.

Ms. IBRAHIM: He didn't care. He do and he did what he wants. Only what he wants.

BEAUBIEN: Other women said they were insulted that Gadhafi has repeatedly blamed the uprising on people on drugs. We are not on drugs, one of the women said through her veil. We are Muslim. And with anger flashing in her eyes she added: And Gadhafi must go.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Tobruk, Libya. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.