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Libya rebels control '95 percent' of Tripoli, but Qaddafi loyalists vow to fight

As Libya rebels assumed control of most of Tripoli, Qaddafi's spokesman said 'thousands and thousands' of fighters were on their way to Tripoli to join the fight.

By Staff writer / August 22, 2011

Libyan rebel fighters in Tripoli deface a portrait of dictator Muammar Qaddafi Monday. Rebels claim to control most of the Libyan capital after their lightning advance on Tripoli heralded the fall of Qaddafi's nearly 42-year regime, but scattered battles continue and the Qaddafi's whereabouts remain unknown.

Sergey Ponomarev/AP

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The Libyan rebels say they have gained control of 95 percent of Tripoli, one of the last holdouts of Col. Muammar Qaddafi's regime, capping a stunning week of gains.

Two of Qaddafi's sons are in rebel custody, including the politically powerful Saif al-Islam, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on war-crimes charges, Al Jazeera reports.

But Qaddafi loyalists are refusing to surrender, potentially prolonging the victory that rebels and their supporters celebrated with a deafening street party in the capital last night. (For an excellent map of the rebel advances and extent of control, click here – thanks to BusinessInsider.com.)

"We will fight," vowed government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim, who said that there were "thousands and thousands" of fighters on their way to help the loyalists. "We have whole cities on our sides. They are coming en masse to protect Tripoli to join the fight."

Indeed, while rebels are exulting in their capture of most of the capital, they still face significant hurdles to taking full control of the country, the Wall Street Journal reports from Tripoli.

At one point early Monday, at an overpass near the city's Gargaresh neighborhood, rebels beat a panicked retreat when word spread of a possible counterattack. That attack didn't occur, but the city remained on edge as explosions echoed in the distance and rebels urged reporters not to linger at Green Square.

If Col. Gadhafi falls, it will pose fresh challenges for rebel forces, who have put aside longstanding ideological, regional and tribal differences to face a common enemy. Those differences are likely to be more pronounced once the strongman who has ruled the country for nearly 42 years is no longer in the picture and rebels struggle to rebuild their state. Further complicating their efforts to govern a post-Gadhafi Libya will be the presence of numerous independent armed groups with different loyalties and who may have different visions for Libya.

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