Libyan forces claim 'liberated' Misratah, but rebellion abounds
All the Libyan military could show on Monday was that they controlled a portion of a main thoroughfare in the city, which lies 125 miles from Tripoli and has seen weeks of clashes.
The Libyan military sought to project an air of confidence around the rebel-held enclave of Misratah on Monday, falsely claiming victory in the western city even as antiregime forces continued their dramatic advance from the east.Skip to next paragraph
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Promising a trip to “liberated Misratah” – Libya’s third-largest city, located 125 miles east of Tripoli – Libyan officials brought foreign journalists at dusk to a point 1.5 miles south of the city center to witness a celebration by scores of people waving green flags and posters of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
“We’ll catch them one by one, like rats,” said Ahmed Abdel-Salam, a young volunteer militiaman wearing mismatched camouflage and a green headwrap with the lettering: “God, Muammar, Libya – only!”
Libya’s state-run TV cameras were already set up to record the moments of joy along a length of the main Tripoli Street that has clearly seen heavy fighting.
The Libyan Foreign Ministry on Monday announced a cease-fire against “terrorist groups” in the city, according to Libya’s state-run news agency. “The city of Misurata now enjoys security and tranquility and public services have started to recover their ability to provide customary services to all citizens,” it said.
Fireworks were set off in the capital on Monday night, in further celebration.
Signs of rebellion easy to see
But all Mr. Qaddafi’s forces could show on Monday was that they controlled a portion of a main thoroughfare in the city. To bring visitors, they had to skirt the southern edge of town – where the evidence of coalition airstrikes against loyalist targets was plain – before driving into the area partially under their control.
And even here signs of rebellion were easy to see, as shooting continued with light and heavy machine guns. Explosions sounded and smoke rose from the direction of the airport.
The words “Down with Qaddafi” remain spray painted in red high up on a metal frame at the center of a key intersection. Dollops of mud have been thrown in an attempt hide the graffiti; similar words are painted on the hulk of a destroyed truck, though smeared with mud to mask their message.
Rebels denounced as foreign terrorists
While Libya’s rebellion continues to make new gains off the back of Western airstrikes against Qaddafi forces, there is no doubt that loyalists harbor an especially high level of hatred for the people of Misratah who have dared to challenge Qaddafi’s rule.