The Battle for Libya's Capital

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World. The 42 year regime of Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi appears to be on the verge of collapse. Rebels now claim to control most of Tripoli. As they advanced on the capital Gaddafi went on state TV to warn about their intentions.

Muammar Gaddafi: [speaking in Arabic]

Interpreter: I have to speak up because I'm afraid that if you let them they will burn Tripoli. Tripoli will become ruins. They will destroy Tripoli. Tripoli will be left without water, without electricity, no broadcast stations, without air conditioning, without food or drink, or freedom, and you would live in fear. They will kill you and desecrate your corpses.

Werman: One of Gaddafi's sons, Mohammed, was talking to Al Jazeera when rebels came to get him.

Mohammed Gaddafi: [speaking Arabic]

Interpreter: I'm being attacked right now. This is gunfire inside my house. They're inside my house. There's no god but Allah, not god but Allah.

Werman: Mohammed Gaddafi is now reportedly under house arrest. Meanwhile, Libyan rebels are still facing resistance in Tripoli. Reporter Marine Olivesi is in the capital.

Marine Olivesi: I'm about one mile from Bab al-Aziziya, which is the neighborhood where most of the loyalists remain in town have retreated. And most of the fighting we can hear now in town, RPGs, and anti-aircraft fire shots are coming from that one neighborhood.

Werman: Right, and is that where all of the fighting seems to be concentrated at the moment?

Olivesi: Yes, exactly, the rest of the town, I'd say 4/5 of the town is completely under control by the rebels. When I left early yesterday afternoon in Tripoli and we drove around town for about an hour, there are checkpoints everywhere in town now. Mostly are staffed, manned with rebels with weapons or there are just barricades with cars and flower pots and it's been an issue today too, actually. They spend all day to clear one neighborhood at a time to make sure that in every neighborhood there were no snipers or any pro-Gaddafi left in those neighborhoods. There was a big fear among civilians that snipers might be hiding in the buildings. So, the main problem today was to navigate around town. One civilian was telling me how he ran into checkpoint this morning that looked just like any rebels checkpoint, except that in a neighborhood he thought was safe, except that the checkpoint was pro-Gaddafi loyalists who had setup that checkpoint and who were giving a hard time to anyone having a flag, a rebel flag, or chanting God is great. So he told me how he had to put on a sad face and pretend he was pro-Gaddafi to go through without any problem. But tonight, it seems that they're holding on to most of the town apart from that one neighborhood, Bab al-Aziziya.

Werman: Right, and that is the neighborhood, Gaddafi's neighborhood, it's his stronghold.

Olivesi: Yeah.

Werman: How much resistance did the rebels encounter coming into Tripoli?

Olivesi: It seemed from the people I've been talking to yesterday from you know, the frontline yesterday morning, was in Zawiya, and from then on they moved on really fast and most of the rebels they said were surprised actually that there was little resistance, in all of the towns and villages they went by between Zawiya and Tripoli, and even entering into Tripoli. One of the rebels said you know, we were driving, driving, and then I realized we were in the suburbs of Tripoli and they were entry points. They were themselves struck by how easy it got to get inside Tripoli.

Werman: Independent reporter, Marine Olivesi speaking earlier today from Tripoli.