After a four-decade-long rule and a six-month-old battle with rebel forces, Col. Moammar Gaddafi’s government appears to be crumbling. Rebel forces have swarmed the capital of Tripoli, and the battle looked all but over until Gaddafi forces struck back Monday. Wednesday, fierce battle continued to rage across the city. The time is marked in EST. It is six hours ahead in Libya. Read the Post’s lead story here and follow other journalists’ tweets from Libya here.
Below, follow along with our live updates:
5:00 p.m. Closing up
As we close up for the night, sporadic fighting is taking place around the city as rebels continue their quest to take total control of the capital. We leave you with these photos, an indicator of how much has changed:
4:45 p.m. “Don’t call us rebels”
For months, Libyan rebels have taken issue with the media calling them “rebels.” Yet until they officially take Tripoli and begin the transition to a new government, that’s what they’re likely to be called.
Today, a Libyan blogger has expounded on exactly why the term “rebel” irks them so much.
“First it bothered us. Then it didn’t,” the blogger wrote. “Now, we find ourselves in the midst of the upshot of this five-letter sinker, in a reminder of why we were writing, tweeting, calling, and scolding all involved news agencies not so many months ago.”
The blogger says the term is troublesome in large part because it makes their struggle seem less legitimate.
“The word grants legitimacy to a regime that, in its continuous crumble, is exposing itself more and more to be a sham and raises relentless questions about the backgrounds of these ‘rebels’ when they really are in fact regular Libyans, much like the demonstrators of Egypt and Tunisia.”
Read the full post here.
4:25 p.m. Heavy clashes in Abu Salim neighborhood
Pro-Gaddafi and rebel forces are clashing in Abu Salim, a neighborhood near the Bab al-Aziziya compound that is one of the last remaining contested areas in the capital.
Abu Salim is also home to the country's most notorious prison, and the scene of a 1996 massacre of protesting political prisoners.
3:25 p.m. Tripoli’s hospitals struggling to cope
The Post’s Thomas Erdbrink reported yesterday that even in small clinics, 60 to 70 people wounded by gunshots had been brought in since the battle had begun.
Now, aid group Doctors Without Borders has warned that conditions in Tripoli's hospitals could soon become “catastrophic” if the situation doesn’t approve.
“There are clearly shortages of life-saving medication and equipment. There are no antibiotics and instruments for life-saving surgery,” said Doctors Without Borders’ Rosa Crestani.
Al-Jazeera reports that the medical staff at Tripoli Central hospital are struggling to handle the increasing number of patients and decreasing amount of medical supplies.
Al-Jazeera's James Bays tweeted Wednesday:
Crestani said the most urgent cases also included those not involved in the fighting, such as women needing cesarean sections.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is sending two surgical teams to Tripoli to assist where needed, CNN reports.
2:25 p.m. Four Italian journalists abducted
Four Italian journalists have been abducted near Zawiya, a city in northwestern Libya, the Associated Press reports. Their driver was killed.
Two of the kidnapped Italian journalists are from Corriere della Sera, another is from La Stampa and the fourth is a correspondent for the Catholic newspaper Avvenire, according to the AFP. The journalists have been named in the Italian media as Elisabetta Rosaspina and Giuseppe Sarcina (of Corriere della Sera), Domenico Quirico (of La Stampa) and Claudio Monici (from Avvenire).
La Stampa reports that one of the journalists has managed to speak with an editor in Italy. The journalist said they had been abducted by pro-Gaddafi forces.
Corriere della Sera reports that the country’s Foreign Ministry is now working to secure their relase.
1:40 p.m. International conference to be held Sept. 1 to discuss Libya’s future
French President Nicolas Sarkozy Wednesday has proposed an international conference to discuss Libya’s future on Sept. 1, BBC reports.
British Prime Minister David Cameron's office says the meeting in Paris will look at how “the international community can help [the rebels] on the path to establishing a free, democratic and inclusive Libya.”
Sarkozy says “friends of Libya” have been invited to the conference, which includes countries that took part in the military campaign as well as China, Russia, India and Brazil.
Libyan opposition leader Mahmoud Jibril, who appeared with Sarkozy at the press conference in Paris, said the day is meaningful because a Sept. 1, 1969 coup brought Gaddafi to power.
Later today, the U.N. Security Council will hold a meeting on Libya. At the meeting, Americans will present a draft resolution asking the council to unfreeze $1.5 billion in Libyan assets to meet the country’s humanitarian needs and assist in its transition of power.
12:50 p.m. Memories of Libya under Gaddafi’s rule shared on Twitter
As rebel forces inch closer to taking total control of Tripoli and toppling Gaddafi’s four-decade rule, Libyans began to share their memories on Twitter of what Libya used to be like, using the hashtag #MemoriesofLibya.
Many of the memories aren’t pretty:
12:10 p.m. Clashes continue at Gaddafi compound
Clashes between rebel and loyalist forces continued Wednesday at Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli, which was taken over by rebels Tuesday.
BBC’s Paul Danahar, who was freed from the Rixos Hotel with more than 30 other international journalists just an hour ago, is now reporting from inside the compound on the clashes:
11:40 a.m. Pentagon says Gaddafi still in Libya
Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said the U.S. still believes Gaddafi is in Libya.
That opinion is shared by Abdel Salam Jalloud, Gaddafi's former right-hand man who defected after the battle for Tripoli began.
Jalloud told al-Jazeera the rebels should clear the way for Gaddafi to leave Tripoli. “The rebels must open the roads. After they open the roads, he may dress in woman's clothes and leave Tripoli for the Algerian border or Chad.”
CNN reports that a rebel has told them a ceasefire could come soon. The general in charge of Gaddafi’s security detail, the rebel said, has ordered the fugitive Libyan leader’s guards to put down their weapons.
Rebels have made a number of claims since Sunday that turned out not to be true, including that they had captured two of Gaddafi’s sons.
10:40 a.m. Journalists freed from Rixos Hotel
Dozens of foreign journalists trapped in Tripoli's Rixos Hotel have been freed, according to CNN.
CNN’s Matthew Chance said the journalists had been held for days “by crazy gunmen” loyal to Gaddafi, who had brandished automatic weapons and waved Gaddafi flags.
The journalists negotiated for their release with the armed guards, who allowed them to leave Wednesday in small groups in cars provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
There had been serious concerns that the Hotel Rixos was turning into a hostage situation, and that the journalists would soon be without food or water.
Chance and the BBC’s Paul Danahar live tweeted their release. As the journalists were evacuated to a carpark outside, Danahar tweeted that heavy arms fire broke out and there were fears of snipers on the roof.
“Trying with colleague to extract our team. Minutes passing [very] slow,” Danahar tweeted.
After several tense minutes passed, Chance tweeted: “We have been holed up together for what seems like an eternity. We could finally get our freedom!!!”
See the timeline of the journalists tweets to freedom here.
10:20 a.m. Businessman offers $1.3 million reward for Gaddafi’s capture
The rebel council says it is offering an amnesty to any of Gaddafi's followers who kill or capture him, Reuters reports.
The rebel council said an unidentified Benghazi businessman has also offered a reward of two million Libyan dinars, some $1.3 million, for Gaddafi's capture.
In the meantime, rebels appear to have Gaddafi’s son Mohammed’s diplomatic passport:
The rebels had earlier claimed to have captured Mohammed, but it is now believed that he broke free of house arrest on Monday.
9:40 a.m. No one knows how many civilians have died in Libya
Since the ongoing armed conflict to depose Gaddafi began as peaceful protests in February of this year, many Libyan lives have been claimed. But how many, no one seems to know.
In March, estimates ranged from 150 people (an estimate by the strongman himself) to 2,000 (CNN and Reuters) to more than 10,000 (the International Criminal Court and United Nations).
This week, the Libyan Minister of Information Moussa Ibrahim addressed Libyan State TV and said the death toll in the battle for Tripoli had reached 1,300 in 11 hours and that number was expected “to rise beyond anyone's imagination.”
The ICC is now investigating the exact death toll and how many of the deaths were “crimes against humanity.”
Some of the more notable deaths of the war in Libya have been of Mohammed Nabbous, a Libyan citizen journalist and founder of Libya Alhurra TV, British-American photojournalist Tim Hetherington, who was killed along with American photojournalist Chris Hondros, and Saif al-Arab al-Gaddafi, the Gaddafi’s youngest son.
But the exact death toll remains difficult to ascertain. In part that’s because of the media clampdown in Libya — as we write this, some 35 journalists are being held hostage in the Hotel Rixos. But it’s also a result of the lack of a standard way of accounting for civilian deaths, and misinformation has spread from both rebel and loyalist sides.
9:10 a.m. Speculation grows that Gaddafi is in Sirte
Rebels are now advancing on Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown and stronghold, and are 35 miles from city limits, the Guardian reports.
Pro-Gaddafi forces have launched four scud missiles from Sirte toward Misrata in recent days, a move that signals a new desperation of the regime. NATO has intercepted all four missiles.
Speculation is now growing that Gaddafi could be hiding out in Sirte, one of a number of places he could be, despite the fugitive leader’s assertions Tuesday that he is alive and well in Tripoli.
Watch video that is to show the rebels organizing outside of Sirte:
8:10 a.m. Forty one countries recognize rebel government
Forty one countries have now recognized the National Transitional Council, al-Jazeera reported. The NTC declared itself the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people on March 5 and has appointed Mahmoud Jibril to form an interim government.
The countries that have recognized the NTC are as follows: Albania, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Greece, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Maldives, Malta, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Palestinian Authority, Panama, Portugal, Qatar, Senegal, Slovenia, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United States.
China and Russia have not formally recognized the NTC, but China on Wednesday said it had “always attached significance to [its] important role” and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said formal relations would be established if the rebels were able to “unite the country for a new democratic start.”
7:10 a.m. Gaddafi vows to fight on “until victory or martyrdom”
Rebel fighters celebrated their capture of Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli Wednesday, announcing that they now controlled 90 percent of the country:
And then came the setbacks. Near the airport, fierce battles ended in four rebel fighters found bound and executed. Pro-Gaddafi forces launched artillery at the compound. Fresh clashes erupted outside the Rixos Hotel, where some 35 international journalists are trapped.
CNN’s Matthew Chance tweeted:
Gaddafi, too, purportedly reappeared Wednesday, giving an audio message to two Arabic networks in which he called upon all Libyans “to clear the city of Tripoli and eliminate the criminals, traitors and rats.”
“They are hiding between the families and inside the civilian houses,” the message said. “It's your duty to enter these houses and take them out.” Listen to Gaddafi speak:
Gaddafi spokesman Musa Ibrahim was equally defiant, saying government forces have the power to fight in Tripoli “not just for months — for years.”