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Libya's rebel government moving to Tripoli to head off power vacuum

Rebel leaders based in the east are heading to Tripoli to strengthen their claim as the legitimate government of Libya. But their credibility has been shaken by inaccurate statements about rebel achievements.

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Yet even as the council begins to extend its reach to the capital, it is facing doubts in Benghazi. Initial reports that rebels captured two of Qaddafi’s sons fell apart when one was reported to have escaped and the other appeared at a hotel where foreign journalists are staying in the capital.

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The leader of the NTC “has lost his credibility by repeatedly lying to the press,” said a woman who asked to remain anonymous while criticizing the rebel leader because she came from a prominent family in Benghazi. A spokesman for the council refused to talk when contacted by phone today and then turned off his phone.

These latest developments have compounded local doubts about the NTC in the wake of the July 29 assassination of rebel military commander Abdel Fatah Younis.

"These things have been happening because the basic foundation of the council is not well organized because they have a lack of experience about how to deal with national matters," says Mohamed El Obeidi, a political science professor at Garyounis University in Benghazi. "They're not that politically experienced in these things. On this basis there have been gaps on the NTC, the biggest and hardest is the assassination of Younis."

Qaddafi forces retreating from Brega

The rebels’ military spokesman in Benghazi, Ahmed Bani, said in the early morning hours of Tuesday that 95 percent of Tripoli was under rebel control, but that pockets of resistance were fighting back fiercely.

Qaddafi’s forces are barricaded in his compound of Bab Al Aziziyah and are using their position to indiscriminately bomb neighborhoods, he said. He added that Qaddafi was using Grad missiles to bomb civilian areas, and said Qaddafi’s son Khamis, commander of a feared military brigade, was likely inside Bab Al Aziziyah.

In the east, rebels were still fighting for the oil refinery in the city of Brega, Mr. Bani said, though some of Qaddafi’s forces are retreating from the area and heading to his hometown, Sirte. Rebels have been fighting for months for the oil facilities, which under normal operation bring in $35 million per day. They have been wary of allowing the facilities to be bombed, and he said that was why the rebels have still not taken control of them.

Al Jazeera also reported that the oil town of Ras Lanuf had fallen to rebels as well.

Qaddafi himself is still on the loose, his whereabouts a mystery, and Sirte still under control of his troops. Bani said rebel troops will not attack Sirte, but will wait for residents to rise up against the colonel. Electricity to the city has been cut for more than a week.

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