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Rebels Enter Tripoli, Gadhafi's Reign Ends

Aired August 22, 2011 - 01:00   ET


JONATHAN MANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: From CNN World Headquarters, I'm Jonathan Mann, and we continue our coverage of breaking news. Libyan rebels advance into Tripoli.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: And I'm Rosemary Church. We welcome our viewers watching across the United States and indeed around the world.

The battle has gone on for half a year. But now rebels have closed in on Libya's capital, apparently ending Gadhafi's 42 years in power.

MANN: Anti-Gadhafi forces say they are now in control of most parts in Tripoli, but the rebels caution there are still pockets of resistance. And rebels say forces loyal to Gadhafi could be planning to re-enter the center of Tripoli, though CNN cannot independently confirm.

CHURCH: Colonel Gadhafi's whereabouts remain unknown. And rebel forces now say three of Colonel Gadhafi's sons have been arrested. Well, our Matthew Chance is at the hotel where foreign journalists stay while covering the conflict. Just a short time ago, he filed this report on what lies ahead for Libya.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, these have been dramatic hours in Tripoli. No one would have guessed this city; this stronghold of Colonel Gadhafi would have fallen so quickly. From the west of Tripoli, rebels entering from the town of Zawiyah, being greeted by celebration, fireworks being set off, crowds, you know, celebrating the fact that the rebels have come in.

Also according to the governments earlier in the day, the rebels controlling some eastern suburbs as well. And throughout this evening there have been gun battles with heavy machine gun fire, with rocket- propelled grenades exploding, fierce clashes between the various armed groups, the Gadhafi loyalists on one side, the opposition fighters on the other vying for control for areas of the city.

But, you know, there has been a big question here, has been what has happened to the resistance that was meant to be taking place that was promised by government officials, by Gadhafi himself.

He said -- government officials said that there were tens of thousands of well-trained professional soldiers with heavy weapons, well-armed, and committed to defending this city. That kind of resistance. Just -- in many areas of Tripoli just didn't happen.

As I say, and in some areas, there were clashes with government forces. But in others, the rebels simply walked in to celebrations of the local population. That Tripoli was finally out of the hands -- at least parts of it, out of the hands of Colonel Gadhafi and in the hands of these opposition fighters.

Matthew Chance, CNN, in Tripoli.


MANN: As the rebels advance from the coastal city of Zawiyah to the capital, our Sara Sidner rode along with them. And she has been talking to dozens of rebels gathered in what Gadhafi called Green Square which the rebels have now dubbed Martyr Square. She had this report.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finished, finished, Gadhafi finished!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tripoli very, very happy. Gadhafi finished. Gadhafi finished. Now we are free (INAUDIBLE).

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are in Green Square. What you are seeing behind me are the...


SIDNER: The rebels are now saying that there is going to be a massive battle here. They do not have full control of the city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the moment, we are not in full control of Tripoli because you can see that.

SIDNER: What does this make you -- how do you feel about this day? You are from Tripoli. Why is this day important? This day, an historic day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an historic day, because we had to leave from here like scared without anything. And now we had to fight (INAUDIBLE) it's my first time (INAUDIBLE).

SIDNER: The civilians are now gone from here, and now we also have to leave.


SIDNER: What's happening is everyone is sort of -- we are here in the middle of Tripoli. What we are seeing is rebels all over this square. There are really no civilians. It's mostly men with guns in the square. But we're also seeing people running. There is a lot of gunfire. They say there are snipers. We all had to pull back. The situation is very tense here. But there is a lot of celebrating going on. Some of this is just gunfire in the air, but people are very, very concerned because they say there were snipers posted atop some of these buildings. They are not sure exactly where some of this gunfire was coming from. So every now and then you see people just running, trying to get out of the way.

But right now the rebels have Green Square and it is an historic moment here in Tripoli in the capital. The real stronghold of Moammar Gadhafi has now been taken over by the rebels.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Tripoli.


MANN: As we have been reporting, Moammar Gadhafi's whereabouts are unknown. Two of his sons are known to be now in the custody of rebel forces. Saif and Saadi Gadhafi have both been arrested. And now from the Al Jazeera network, word that a third son, Muhammad Gadhafi, has been arrested.

Al Jazeera ran a remarkable interview in which he described the gunmen that were circling his home. Later the network spoke with a member of the Transitional National Council who said Muhammad Gadhafi, a third Gadhafi son, is now in rebel hands as well -- Rosie.

CHURCH: All right. Well, now we want to hear from someone who lives in Tripoli and watched these historic and dramatic events unfold, is on the phone now from Tripoli. We have decided not to identify him for his own safety and protection.

Sir, thank you for speaking with us. I wonder if you would share with us your observations as you watch these historic events unfold.


CHURCH: Yes, we are on air now on CNN. And I wonder if you could share with us what you saw, what you witnessed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. At the moment we're just performing a sweep of the area. It is the connecting bridge between (INAUDIBLE) and (INAUDIBLE) area, (INAUDIBLE), which is central Tripoli right now. We just -- a couple of the militia walking around the area. We have caught sight of them but they have gone into hiding at the moment. So we are just performing a sweep of the area to try to and make sure that everything is safe and all the civilians are OK. We want to try to avoid any casualties, so -- at the moment.

CHURCH: Yes, we can hear you walking; actually, most definitely we can pick that up. Can you tell us what you feel and what your friends and family and neighbors think should happen to Moammar Gadhafi?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we think should happen? Well, first of all, we need to know 100 percent that he is going to get caught and let justice take care of it, whether it's the -- whether the Transitional Council feel it appropriate to be judged by Libyan law or by the ICC. For us as long as fair justice comes after 42 years of torment and so many lives being ruined, a whole country history really, 42 years have gone by and we have missed out on so much.

So people's morale is really high. We are just waiting for it to all be over. We're waiting for also the special forces that are assigned to actually take over from us, to come in and take over. We are all very tired but we're still feeling very high.

CHURCH: Indeed, and, of course, we have heard that a third son of Gadhafi has now been captured. There is the sense that Gadhafi's regime is crumbling. But I want to get an idea of how you see the future of Libya from here on. Are you fearful of a slow political transition?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). We have already talked of this. But we're a patient bunch. We have waited 42 years. I'm sure we've...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the Transitional Council and...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... changing the country, and starting from scratch any -- like I said, we're a very, very patient bunch. Despite that there is differences, I think that Libyans...


CHURCH: Indeed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... and do something productive.

CHURCH: All right. Talking there with an unnamed resident of Tripoli, clearly just some problems there with hearing him toward the end. But you certainly got the sense of how people are feeling beyond these -- this historic day.

MANN: They are short of food. They are short of fuel. They are short of electricity. But miraculously, the telephones still work and they have been getting their stories out to the world. And we've been so grateful to hear from each and every one of them.

CHURCH: Exactly right.

MANN: Well, it might be a very different story in Tripoli right now if not for NATO warplanes' support as the rebels launched their uprising. A spokeswoman for NATO told CNN the intervention by France, Britain, and their allies saved countless lives.


OANA LUNGESCU, NATO SPOKESPERSON: Those responsible for stopping the bloodshed in Libya are the Gadhafi regime, as the United Nation Security Council resolution made very clear. The mandate for NATO is to continue protecting civilians and civilian-populated areas against attacks and the threat of attacks.

And what we have seen consistently, systematically, and brutally are attacks by the Gadhafi regime ever since February. And NATO has consistently implemented to that mandate, and we have saved countless lives since we started this mission.

The regime is crumbling and the sooner Moammar Gadhafi realizes that there is no way that he can win this war against his people that he has started, the better for everyone so that the Libyan people can start the transition to democracy that they want and they deserve and they can start that sooner rather than later.


MANN: You heard her say it, the regime is crumbling. Well, we asked the Libyan government spokesman for his reaction to that. Take a listen.


MOUSSA IBRAHIM, LIBYAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: These are the fantasies of people sitting in offices in European capitals, deciding the futures of whole foreign nations. We are still very strong. We have whole tribes supporting us. At this very moment we have more than 65,000 fighting professional men in Tripoli, in addition to other thousands of people fighting with us. And we can hold for much longer.


CHURCH: Well, Moammar Gadhafi has been leading Libya for more than 40 years. Now many Libyans are wondering what life will be like without him. We will hear from another Tripoli resident.

MANN: And U.S. President Barack Obama takes a break from his vacation to say Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of a tyrant.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: August 21st, quite possibly the first night of freedom for all of Libya.


CHURCH: And that was the scene Sunday in the Libyan city of Benghazi as thousands of people gathered to celebrate the rebel advances.

Well, as the end apparently draws near for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, residents are getting increasingly vocal about what closing the book on Gadhafi would mean for them and, indeed, for Libya. This unnamed resident of Tripoli says the changes will be hard but welcome.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We lived 42 years of hell, anything that is going to come after this is going to be better than what we lived in the past four decades. Anything that is going to come is going to be a lot better than what we went through. But it will be difficult. And I am not saying that it's going to be amazing and it's not going to be America tomorrow. But we will see drastic changes in this country, in the people.

We grew to love each other for the first time in 42 years. We feel like we are one country. Before it was always like, oh, it's just me and my people. Now we love each other. People in Tripoli are chanting for Benghazi. People in Benghazi are chanting for (INAUDIBLE). People in (INAUDIBLE) are chanting for Misrata. And it goes on. It's like we're one united, (INAUDIBLE) one person that made us live in hell for the past 42 years.

Finally we can go out and say what we want, ask for what we deserve and get it. Right now we can think without being shot. Before you couldn't even think to yourself.


MANN: U.S. President Barack Obama is vacationing on Martha's Vineyard, an island off the Massachusetts coast. Officials have been briefing him on the latest developments in Libya. And on Sunday evening, Mr. Obama issued a statement saying: "The Gadhafi regime has reached a tipping point. The people of Libya," he says, "are showing that the universal pursuit of dignity and freedom is far stronger than the iron fist of a dictator. The surest way for the bloodshed to end," he said, "is simple, Gadhafi and his regime need to recognize that their rule has come to an end. He needs to relinquish power once and for all."

Our world affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty says officials in Washington are talking with rebel groups about the future.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: They had a representative from the State Department on the ground for weeks talking with them, getting them to commit to certain things. And the most important -- one of the most important was to be democratic in what they did, to be inclusive, as they put it, geographically and politically. Because Libya is a very tribal country. And if you don't bring everybody together, it can be extremely difficult. Very different from, let's say, Egypt, which really doesn't have tribes.


MANN: Britain played a key role as NATO moved in to help unseat Moammar Gadhafi. And Prime Minister David Cameron has released a statement on the fast-moving events, saying: "It is clear from the scenes we are witnessing in Tripoli that the end is near for Gadhafi." The statement goes on to say: "He has committed appalling crimes against the people of Libya and he must go now to avoid any further suffering for his people." France took the early lead when NATO began its military operations against Libya back on March 19th. French and British air force planes began regular bomb attacks on the country. Now as rebels begin taking control of Tripoli, French President Nicolas Sarkozy urges Moammar Gadhafi to give up immediately what power he has left.

In a statement from Paris, Mr. Sarkozy said: "Gadhafi should avoid having the Libyan people endure more suffering." And he urged Gadhafi to order his soldiers to lay down their weapons and return to their barracks.

The French President also commended the courage of the rebel fighters as they fought for control of the country.

Well, Libyan rebels say Moammar Gadhafi's reign has come to an end. He has been in power for more than 40 years. So how did it all come to this? Our profile of the Libyan leader is just ahead.

CHURCH: And what happens to all the guns and ammunition after the battle? Some fear they could fall into the wrong hands.


CHURCH: Rebels and NATO officials say they are approaching the endgame for Moammar Gadhafi, but even as rebels continue to tighten the noose around the capital, Gadhafi delivered yet another defiant speech to his supporters. Take a listen.


MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): Do you remember the million marches? I am with you, alongside with you in this fight. We are not going to give away or give up.


CHURCH: Well, Moammar Gadhafi has, of course, confounded the international community for decades now. He is known for colorful eccentricities and long fiery speeches.

MANN: And in fact, that might just seem bizarre and amusing, but he could also be quite calculating and deadly.

Hala Gorani has a profile now of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.


HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): As a 27-year-old army officer, Moammar Gadhafi overthrew Libya's king in 1969, and then set about wiping all foreign influence from the country, including all vestiges of communism or capitalism, publishing his personal philosophy in a three-volume "Green Book."

Gadhafi always said that his goal was to change the world. But it was the way he set out to do it that amused, confused, and often infuriated. Gadhafi said he wanted to unite the Arab world and even proclaimed with Libya, Egypt, and Syria in 1972. That merger plan fell apart. A later merger attempt with Tunisia disintegrated into bitter animosity.

Maintaining a colorful profile wherever he went, he made a point of emphasizing his Bedouin roots, sleeping in tents protected by an eye- catching female security detail.

His speeches were legendary for both length and bombast. His 2009 speech at the U.N. was typical.

GADHAFI (through translator): We are not committed to obey the rules or the resolutions of the Security Council and this formation because it is undemocratic.

GORANI: What was supposed to be a 15-minute talk rambled on more than 90 minutes. But while he sometimes appeared a clown on the world stage, his actions were often deadly.

In the mid '80s he funneled money and weapons to support the Palestine Liberation Organization's fight against Israel; the Irish Republican Army's efforts to defeat British rule in Northern Ireland; and he viciously targeted Americans.

In 1986, Libyan agents were accused of bombing a Berlin nightclub, killing two Americans and a Turk. U.S. President Ronald Reagan responded by bombing Tripoli, targeting Gadhafi's house. The raid killed more than 100 people including Gadhafi's own daughter.

Two years later, Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over the tiny village of Lockerbie, Scotland, raining debris and taking 270 lives. Investigators traced the attack to Libya. When Libya refused to turn over the suspects, the U.N. imposed tough sanctions, leaving the country isolated and increasingly destitute.

After 11 years as an international outcast, Gadhafi cut a deal. He gave up the Lockerbie bombing suspects for trial, and after the U.S. invaded Iraq, he surprised the world by agreeing to destroy all of his chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons.

Gadhafi soon welcomed Western oil companies like BP and Total into Libya. But questions lingered about whether some Western oil contracts were traded for Scotland's release of one of the convicted Lockerbie bombers.

And he didn't give up the bizarre behavior. On a 2009 visit to Italy, he invited 200 models to his ambassador's house, paying each $75 to listen to lectures on Islam and giving each a copy of the Koran.

Back home, patience was running thin. After more than 40 years, rebellion bubbled up in the eastern part of the country, quickly spreading across Libya. As his government disintegrated, he addressed the nation from the same house bombed by the U.S. in 1986.

GADHAFI (through translator): This is my country, the country of my grandfathers.

GORANI: He vowed to die a martyr in Libya.

Hala Gorani, CNN.


CHURCH: And as time runs out for Moammar Gadhafi, one possibility is exile in a neighboring country. But outside of Libya, Gadhafi has had a strong supporter in Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. And he has strong ties to South Africa.

However, the International Criminal Court wants Gadhafi to answer for crimes against humanity. And Gadhafi has said more than once he plans to die in Libya.

MANN: You know, Rosemary, I once had a chance to meet and interview Moammar Gadhafi. And I'll tell you more about that in a moment. It was a strange enough thing. And I'll get into my impressions. But just a short time ago, I had a chance to talk to our own Nic Robertson. Nic has also spent a great deal of time in Libya and the region. And we began by talking about a group called the "Tripoli Brigade."


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tripoli had, while we were there, when the NATO bombing began, and Gadhafi's forces and his loyalists still firmly controlled the capital, a sort of ring of steel around it. The brigade there that was controlling the capital was able to sort of draw on munitions from multiple bases with inside the city that have become over the months NATO's principal targets for air strikes in the city, ammunition stores there.

And as Sara Sidner will have driven today, as she has overnight from Ziwayah into Tripoli, she came right past one of the most feared bases of one of the Gadhafi's brigades controlled by his son Khamis, who were originally the force that went into Ziwayah when they first -- Gadhafi's forces first crushed the rebels there.

The fact that there wasn't any resistance there, the fact that this ring of steel that we have seen, tanks, armored personnel carriers, evaporated, really gives rise to the perception here of, A, how the rebels are able to get into the city so quickly, but how Gadhafi himself may be caught out in surprise at just how quickly people have deserted him, who have proved not to be loyal.

The writing has been on the wall for these forces, and now it seems that they have in fact collapsed. And that will enable rebels throughout the city, the people of the city who don't want Gadhafi, who have been too afraid to come out on the streets because they don't have the weapons, will now realize that the big military machine that they have so feared, to a degree has melted away.

Of course, we don't know the details and we don't know the parameters of the areas that Gadhafi's forces, those still loyal to him, still control. Certainly there seem to be some of them in the city at this time -- Jonathan. MANN: Now Libya is an oil rich country with, what, 140 different tribes and clans and prominent families, which is to say, there are a lot of people who have potentially something to fight over if they want to fight each over now.

What do you think is going to happen? Is the transition going to be as smooth as it suddenly seems?

ROBERTSON: The military transition may be quick and may appear to be smooth in the initial analysis. And securing control in Tripoli and other cities will be sort of the most immediate need.

But getting a political consensus beyond that is going to be difficult. You have a traditional east-west split within the country. That's historic. You have a lot of the rebels coming from the east of the country. You have had tribes that have been loyal to Gadhafi, like the Senussi tribe, the tribe that the head of intelligence is from, Abdullah Senussi, wanted by the International Criminal Court, the right-hand man of Gadhafi, really, in controlling the country.

That tribe has always held a powerful position in government. What are they going to settle for now? Will those tribes that have -- powerful and had power in the past that have sat on the sidelines, will the rebels want to take them in and give them political power?

We know that the rebels have disparate. There are Islamist elements. There are sort of more moderate liberal elements. There are perhaps other elements within the Transitional National Council as we know it today.

And politicians that I've talked to who have fled Libya say that the political make-up and tribal make-up is very diverse. And this is what may slow the sort of arrival, if you will, or the announcement of any sort of transitional government. So there are many, many hurdles. This initial phase, the military phase isn't over, may be the simplest one.

And, of course, a counter-insurgency by Gadhafi loyalists cannot be ruled out of this phase or perhaps in the coming months.


CHURCH: And, of course, what happens to Gadhafi's inner circle is not the only big question here. The Libyan military could be forced to abandon tons of weapons if the rebels step up to power.

Now we spoke with an expert about what might happen to all that military hardware. Listen.


BARAK BARFI, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: French and African sources have expressed fear that some of the weapons have fallen into the control of al Qaeda in the Maghreb. As you know, this is the North African affiliate of al Qaeda, which (INAUDIBLE) and in Mali and in (INAUDIBLE) fears that some of these sophisticated weapons will fall into their hands and will be used against Western targets to kidnap Westerners and possibly against oil installations in Algeria.


CHURCH: Well, of course, they have proved they can beat the forces of Moammar Gadhafi, of course.

MANN: But can the ragtag rebels actually run Libya? We'll hear from a Libyan political observer just ahead.


MANN: Welcome back. Events have been moving quickly in Libya. Here's the latest.

CHURCH: Yes. Scenes of celebration in Tripoli as anti-Gadhafi forces say they are now in control of most parts of the Libyan capital. But the rebels caution that there are still some pockets of resistance in the city. And we don't know where Moammar Gadhafi is. But we do know that opposition leaders say rebel forces have captured three of his sons now. That's Saif and Saadi Gadhafi. And then Al Jazeera reports Muhammad Gadhafi has also been captured.

Now earlier we heard from a residence of Tripoli voicing her opinion on what the end of Gadhafi's rule will mean for Libya. Let's listen now to another resident of Tripoli as he describes how the events of the last several hours unfolded.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have got strict orders from the Transitional Council not to leave our positions. We have even stopped the civilians from actually coming on to -- particularly the main roads. Because one particular -- this road takes you across to (INAUDIBLE). So it is quite an open area and you can easily get casualties.

We're waiting for the main brigade that's responsible for, let's say, flushing out these men. Until we got the orders through right now, and we have been told to stay put and we'll get the orders through.

And if there is any in our particular area, then we take care of them like we've been doing the last couple of nights. Or either the brigade responsible, that's the ones that are mainly in charge, we will take care of them.

But at the moment we're trying to minimize as much as possible any fatalities or casualties. I don't think anyone envisioned that even with the plan and the coordination that was -- that took place, we were expecting that we would be in for maybe up to something like that.

But, yes, we are as surprised as anyone, actually. We were expecting once we got through the first night, we thought we would be in for an onslaught the second night.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MANN: Well, that Tripoli resident says the Transitional National Council is well organized, but soon it will have to transition quickly into a leadership role. CNN's Hala Gorani and Michael Holmes talked to professor and author Mansour El-Kikhia about whether it can succeed.


MANSOUR EL-KIKHIA, LIBYAN POLITICAL ANALYST: I didn't expect that to happen so soon. But now that it did happen, I wish them the best and I hope they round it up and finish it up. You know, it's important that we get rid of this ogre once and for all, and end this sorry chapter in Libya's history.

It has been a long, long time. It has taken up too many lives. It has taken up too many futures. And it's about time that this travesty ends and we never, never, never (INAUDIBLE) again.

GORANI: Let me ask you, Mansour, because this is an important question going forward. You have the capturing of the capital, it seems. And then your have a very important, more crucial phase, which is the future political landscape of this country, your country of origin.

Will this transitional authority be able to leave Libya as one country?

EL-KIKHIA: I think so and I hope so. I mean, I can't afford to be pessimistic. I have to be optimistic. I have to say yes, because being pessimistic and not being able to do it would be a disaster. I think most Libyans understand that as well too.

Now I disagree with one thing that your earlier reporters said, that Libya will have tribes. We really have lots of tribes. But we're not really a tribal society in the sense of a tribal society. Tribe is important, but I think this revolution was conducted by tribes.

Gadhafi called upon the tribes to support him. But ultimately this revolution was led by young people who were fed up with the Gadhafi regime. And most of the (INAUDIBLE) during the Gadhafi regime.

And so they're not asking for (INAUDIBLE). They're asking to live and to (INAUDIBLE) in a democratic system (INAUDIBLE). This is what leads me to believe that there is a willingness on the part of the population, at least the part that matters, to live together, to establish a new future for Libya.

And this makes it really quite easy for the Transitional Council. The Transitional Council, it has never seen something like this happen before in the world. We have never seen people come together and say, OK, we're going to take over now and we're going to set up the system.

And they will accept it. And the plan they have in place are good plans. They have a draft constitution. They want to establish a new government that will finish up the constitution and a plebiscite on the constitutional framework... (CROSSTALK)

GORANI: Sorry to jump in. My colleague Michael Holmes would like to ask a question.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Yes. You make a good point. And that is true that there is a common goal here and there was a coming together of various often fractured points of views culturally and tribally and politically in Libya.

And it's good to be optimistic, and it's good to have that rosy outlook. But the reality is that is going to be very difficult. I mean, you have people who were fighting together from neighboring towns who would not have dinner together before this started. That's not going to be easy to paper over when it comes to, OK, we've won now, we've got Tripoli, now let's bring together a cabinet.

I mean, that's when the arguing starts, is it not?

EL-KIKHIA: I have no doubt it's not going to be an easy road. I mean, don't expect that to be easy. You're quite right. There has not been a constitutional framework for the last 40 years. Prior to Gadhafi there was.

But you have to understand something, that the alternative is really horrible and Libyans understand them as horrible. The most important thing that the council said, now I think -- and I commend them for this, is that we can't hold a Libyan who was working for the Gadhafi regime as responsible.

Only those people who have committed atrocities, committed such crimes, stolen public property and so forth, those people have to be brought to the account. But the majority of Libyans will not be harmed. Everyone will forgive that it was no alternative but to work for Gadhafi.

And I think Libyans understand that. I know it's not going to be easy. I know it's going to be tough, very difficult. But what is the alternative? A civil war?


MANN: While fighting a civil war on the ground, Libyan rebels have also been fighting diplomatic battles for support from the rest of the world. This map helps illustrate things better. You see Libya in green. In red you see the countries that formally recognize the Transitional National Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

They include the United States and Canada, much of Europe, plus Japan and Australia. Also a scattering of Middle Eastern and Arab countries: Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, and the latest addition, Tunisia.

But the countries in blue are not quite there, at least not yet. Some like Ireland and Switzerland have established relations, but only informal recognition. Others, like Russia and China, up to this point see the TNC more as a negotiating party.

CHURCH: Now our Ben Wedeman reported from the front lines of Libya for several months. He is in Cairo, Egypt, right now. But earlier he talked to our Michael Holmes about these latest developments.

And Michael began by asking him whether the speed of the rebel's advance was surprising.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very surprised. Because first of all we have been told by many sources within Tripoli that there were widespread expectations of a bloodbath when the opposition fighters finally got to Tripoli.

Now clearly there have been casualties. But certainly nothing along the scale of what we were told to expect. And at the same time, it really -- the speed at which the rebels got Tripoli was far faster than we expected as well.

Really, I think the critical thing was when they cut off the road from Tunisia, when they took the town of Zawiyah, and Gharyan to the south of Tripoli. Basically the capital was cut off from the rest of the world and it was really just a matter of time before things started to fall apart in the capital.

HOLMES: Ben, you know, you talked about Zawiyah and getting to the coast and the western rebels and the speed with which they moved off Nafusa or western mountains and hit the coast.

You know, and not to dilute what is going on, because there has been some very severe fighting at times, there have been many casualties over the last few weeks in particular as those western rebels have headed for the coast.

But in the big picture of it all, this is a bunch of, generally speaking, amateurs, one of the rebel commanders I was with at (INAUDIBLE) was an X-ray technician. And he was calling Grad missile strikes, up against what ostensibly is meant to be a trained army.

Are you surprised at just how quickly that army melted away, in many cases?

WEDEMAN: Well, I think that there was a certain amount of momentum with the opposition fighters. They were convinced of the justice of their cause and it was rough going. Certainly at certain points I remember in the area Ajdabiya Brega area in eastern Libya, it was really a work in progress and oftentimes there was no progress.

It would come under fire from Gadhafi's forces and just retreat in complete chaos. I think what we've seen in Misrata and western Libya was a certain higher level of military competence, it's not quite clear where that came from.

On the Gadhafi side, we interviewed many captured soldiers, and there did seem to be the feeling that there was not very high morale among their forces, that they were confused as to who they were fighting. They didn't know if they were fighting Libyans. They were told they were fighting foreigners, members of al Qaeda, terrorists.

They complained of officers who would leave them in the lurch at the front lines. They complained of shortage of the food and ammunition and very little in terms of logistical support. So even the Libyan army on the surface, at least, is better equipped, better trained.

They didn't seem to have much in the way of good leadership and their heart, it appears, just was not in the fight.


CHURCH: Our Ben Wedeman there.

Well, still ahead here on WORLD REPORT, we will look back at how the war in Libya began and how rebels made it to where they are now. Do stay with us.


CHURCH: You are looking now at new video from the rebel-held city of Tobruk, and people are celebrating the news that the opposition has made serious gains in the capital. Rebels have controlled the eastern port city since the uprising began.

Well, certainly a dramatic day in Libya. There have been some celebrations in the capital of Tripoli over the apparent demise of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Anti-Gadhafi forces say they are now in control of most parts of Tripoli. Colonel Gadhafi's whereabouts are still unknown at this point.

But NATO says the Gadhafi regime is clearly crumbling. It appears three of Colonel Gadhafi's sons are now under arrest.

MANN: Libya remains a fluid situation. We will continue to keep you updated but we also want to tell you about another developing story we're following, a new tropical storm which could pose a threat to millions in coming days.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri is at the International Weather Center to tell us about Irene.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Jonathan, Tropical Storm Irene here, the ninth tropical storm of the season in the Atlantic Basin. And every single one of these storms here with a tropical storm symbol next to them, they have all come and gone. Irene being the current storm, but nothing so far has turned into a hurricane.

Now the National Hurricane Center has kept data since 1851, the meteorologists associated with them. And you take a look at this, not too often you get that many storms without one forming as a hurricane. This one right here I think has the best bet.

Winds right now just updated up to 113 kilometers per hour on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, to get up to a hurricane, you've got to get up to at least 119 kilometers per hour, which is 74 miles per hour.

So it is going to strengthen, we think, inside the next 24 hours, weaken a little bit beyond that after it interacts with Puerto Rico. But you can certainly take a look, the governments of all the areas here on this map are taking this very seriously. We have hurricane warnings, hurricane watches, tropical storm warnings and watches up and down the Caribbean.

So the question lies, what is the storm going to do? We know heavy rainfall is a sure bet, heavy rain across the northern region, say, around San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the next several hours. And then portions of the Dominican Republic get up to 25 centimeters, that's about 10 inches of rainfall for northern areas of Dominican Republic on into areas of Haiti and, then beyond that, the models want to take this storm system directly towards portions of the Turks and Caicos Islands, that's some time in the next 36 hours.

By Wednesday and Thursday, it parks off the southeastern United States, Jonathan: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, this area of southeastern Florida has got to be watching this storm very carefully. And we will as well -- Jonathan.

MANN: Pedram Javaheri, thanks very much.

Again, as we continue to monitor the situation in Libya, let's take a quick look at some of the other stories making news around the world.

Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, said in an interview with state- run television that elections in his country could be held in February, and that his military is not targeting peaceful protesters. The protesters and human rights groups say Syria is continuing its bloody crackdown to end an uprising.

Funerals have been hold for the eight Israeli civilians and soldiers who died in Thursday's attack in southern Israel. Since then rockets have been fired from Palestinian territory into Israel. The Israeli military has responded with air strikes. A human rights group says 15 people have died.

CHURCH: A lawyer for hotel housekeeper Nafissatou Diallo says she will meet with prosecutors in New York later today. A lawyer expects some or all of the charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn will be dropped. The housekeeper has accused the former head of the International Monetary Fund of sexual assault. A court hearing is scheduled Tuesday.

It's the start of the trading week in the global markets. It has been a turbulent few weeks for equity. So let's see what's happening across Asia. The Nikkei, Hang Seng, KOSPI, and Australia's ASX 200 are all trading lower.

MANN And we have this just in. Our CNN crew is hearing sounds of sporadic gunfire and explosions coming from the direction of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli. The Bab al-Aziziya compound, which you can see on this map, has been blasted regularly since the start of the international military campaign in Libya. This new development, of course, would be a significant sign of how the battle is going.

Still ahead, talking to Gadhafi face to face when I met the Libyan leader back in 2006, I didn't know exactly what to expect, I knew it would be memorable, it was.


CHURCH: Well, the rebels once controlled eastern Libya from their base in Benghazi, now as anti-Gadhafi forces into Tripoli, thousands celebrated in Benghazi's Freedom Square. Benghazi remains the seat of the rebel leadership, the Transitional National Council.

And we want to give you a look now at how the rebels got to Tripoli, and where it all started, of course. John Vause takes us through the twists and turns of this months' long conflict.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For a long time it seems as if this conflict has been at a standstill. Remember how the rebels swept out in their capital, Benghazi, in the east, all the way west to the city of Misrata.

Well, that was back in May, and while the rebels have won some territory, lost some territory, it seems as if this has been at a standstill. But for the last few months, rebel fighters, with the help of NATO airstrikes, have been making some significant gains in the Nafusa Mountains.

And from there, late last month, earlier this month they began a push towards the capital Tripoli. First they took the garrison town of Gharyan. That put them about 90 kilometers away from the capital. And in the last week or so they moved another strategically important city, Zawiyah: 200,000 people live there.

It has a major oil refinery, and it is right on Gadhafi's doorstep. And a lot of people are now saying that could be the beginning of the end because the capital is now surrounded, it is now under siege.

With the rebels controlling Zawiyah, they control the supply lines between Tripoli and Tunisia. They also control the territory to the south, to the east. NATO controls the skies as well as the sea.

So right now Moammar Gadhafi is isolated, he is cut off from the rest of the world.


MANN: Now we have no idea what's next for Moammar Gadhafi, but we do know that he is a man who has made quite an impression. I actually had an opportunity to sit down with him, something i won't soon forget.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MANN (voice-over): He is the strangest head of state I have ever met. Moammar Gadhafi received me several years ago for an interview in his tent in Tripoli, a then peaceful port city where just about every billboard and sign was painted with his picture.

Ronald Reagan once called Gadhafi "a mad dog." And his behavior does tend to be particular. He is famous for his flamboyant dress, his legion of female bodyguards, and his bizarre fixations, such as a plan to abolish Switzerland.

In person, he seemed lethargic. His eyes, even behind sunglasses seemed unfocused. His answers, through a translator, seemed rambling. We never saw female bodyguards and his clothing was relatively low key: a camouflage shirt festooned with maps of Africa. But that fly (INAUDIBLE) never stopped flying.

Libya today is in turmoil. Its people are demanding democracy. But when I brought it up, he threatened to sue me for slander.

"If you or somebody else says Libya is not a democracy," he told us, " then it would be considered an insult and maybe we could go to court to redeem honor from that insult."

Back then Libya was a rogue state trying to redeem itself. It had surrendered its most dangerous weapons to the West. It was trying to open its economy to the world. Its leader was the wildcard, the unpredictable element, though, he still is.


CHURCH: An incredible interview and an incredible man. I mean, it would be interesting to get your impressions as you're watching this unfold, what you think is likely to happen.

MANN: Well, I don't know what's going to happen. But it's this strange dichotomy. He seemed -- frankly, he seemed then like a clown, he seemed too distant from the affairs of this world to actually be running a country.

But he is a deadly dictator. He's the man the world blames for the Lockerbie bombing. He's a man who so many Libyans have suffered under for four decades. So it's easy for us to laugh at him and treat him as a buffoon, but he is still a wildcard, he is still out there somewhere. And for all we know he is still going to fight on until the end.

CHURCH: Indeed, and, of course, we don't -- we have to emphasize that, we don't know where he is. There might be this fighting at his compound at this point, but we don't actually know if he is in there. But we do know that three of his sons are now captured. So an incredible interview.

MANN: Well, thanks very much.

CHURCH: Well, of course, as -- we do want to bring you up to speed now on a development coming out of Tripoli. We did mention it just then. Our CNN crew hearing sounds of sporadic gunfire and explosions coming from the direction of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli, the Bab al-Aziziya compound, which, you can see here on the map, has been blasted regularly since the start of the international military intervention in Libya on March 19.

Now this new development, of course, would be a significant sign of how this battle is going.

MANN: The rebels, we could point out, have not made a point of trying to get into that compound. They have taken the city. But that was one pocket that they left well enough alone, at least in the first hours of their conquest of the city.

CHURCH: Yes. And they keep emphasizing that they have control of most of Tripoli, but not all of it. And this is the main part.

Well, of course, we will continue to keep you updated on that next hour here on WORLD REPORT, as we continue our coverage of the rebel advance in the Libyan capital.

MANN: Rebels are celebrating now, but what happens if Gadhafi leaves and they have to run the country? We will have live analysis from a regional expert. For now, I'm Jonathan Mann, thanks for joining us.

CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church, stay with me as our coverage continues right after the break. Jon Mann will leave us now.