Libya: now comes the hard bit

How fast will Tripoli fall?

Libyan rebels have effectively taken Zlitan, only two hours drive or 150 km from Tripoli.  Gunfire is rocking areas of the capital where anti-Gaddafi people are emboldened by rebel successes elsewhere; there's speculation the end is near for the dictatorship.  Rebel forces have taken a Khamis Brigade base 26 km from Tripoli reports RT, and now entered the outskirts of the city, reports The Guardian.

But as Sir Menzies "Ming" Campbell, the UK ex-Liberal Democrat leader and ex-Foreign and Defence spokesman, told the BBC, "there's a lot of support for Col Gaddafi in Tripoli and my sense is that he won't go without a fight.”  Indeed, Gaddafi has called on "all patriots" to defend the capital, according to The Guardian.

The Libyan dictator has said all along that he'll die in Libya, so speculation that he had fled to Venezuela a few months back was always likely to be inaccurate.  His fortifications in Tripoli are immense - presumably rebuilt since hit by NATO strikes last March.

The morale of the green-flag supporters must be very low, but adrenalin levels on both sides will be skyrocketing.  Reuters was informed "many key figures loyal to Gaddafi had already fled."  It has to be wondered how NATO could assist as streetfighting escalates, their UN mandate being issued in order to protect civilian lives. Foreign civilians are still in the city - even as the last of these make last-minute escapes.  Maltese boats attempting to pick them up and take them to safety have come under fire, according to the BBC.  The UK Foreign Office announced a few hours ago that fleeing Brits are safe (in Valetta?).

Rebels, until recently hampered by inadequate weaponry, have captured so much hardware lately they should now be fully resourced.  

Is Gaddafi still actually in Tripoli?  Or has he already left for the southern desert stronghold city of Sabha? In July Gaddafi spoke via television to a 50,000 rally of supporters in Sabha, where rebel support was quashed in June, according to Maars Global News.

Muammar al-Gaddafi's final stand might well take place in the Libyan desert: an appropriate location for a tent-loving Bedouin.  It's also possible he'd hole up in Sirte, his home city with a population of 75,000, east along the Mediterranean coast halfway between Tripoli and Benghazi.

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