The battle for Tripoli: it’s NOT over yet
As pro-Gaddafi troops continue to fight, have the optimists been too quick to call an easy victory?
There is little doubt that Libya's rebel forces have taken control of much of the city. However, there is a growing sense this afternoon that western politicians and commentators are being too optimistic when they say Colonel Gaddafi's regime is on the point of falling.
David Cameron said this morning the Libyan people were "a step closer to their dream of a better future free from the terror of Gaddafi". That is undoubtedly true - but it may not be as short a step as the PM or those Libyans rejoicing in Green Square would wish. As for Cameron's statement that Gaddafi's forces are in "full retreat", that is now questionable.
There are still many pro-Gaddafi militia in Tripoli - enough to create heavy fighting around the Libyan leader's Bab al-Azizia compound. Meanwhile western TV crews, including some from the BBC and Sky, have been targeted by Gaddafi's men and there are concerns for western journalists staying under guard at the Rixos Hotel.
While three of Gaddafi's sons, Saif al-Islam, Saadi and Muhammad, are reported to be in rebel hands, a younger son, Khamis, is said to be determined to hold out. Reports earlier today had him leading a column of tanks towards his father's compound.
Politically there are signs, too, that David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy will not be able to rest on their laurels for a while yet.
Robert Fox of The First Post says it is clear some sort of international force will be needed in Tripoli. But if the Americans continue to keep their distance, and Cameron is desperate not to be drawn into a post-Baghdad-style operation, who will provide it?
There is still no news as to whether Gaddafi remains inside his compound or if he has somehow been spirited out of the capital in recent days.
One man who believes the dictator is still in his 'bunker' is the former Libyan prime minister Abdel-Salam Jalloud.
Jalloud, who was close to Gaddafi for years and only left Tripoli last Friday, has told an Italian TV interviewer that he believes Gaddafi will die when his compound is finally overrun.
Why? Because he's missed his chance to negotiate with the rebels, he will not surrender - and nor will he commit suicide. "He is not like Hitler, who had the courage to kill himself," he said. ·
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