Colonel Qaddafi’s days as dictator of Libya are numbered, not in months but perhaps days. Bloomberg reports Libyan Rebels Launch Offensive to Seize Tripoli

“The decisive battle to liberate Tripoli started,” Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a rebel brigade commander, said in an interview with Al Jazeera. “I would like to tell our families inside the capital that we are coming and call upon Qaddafi’s troops to abandon their weapons tonight and to join us to get rid of Qaddafi and his regime.”

Rebel Control

“Rebels are now controlling Zlitan, and they are located near Wadi Kam,” said the council spokesman, Munir Mohammed. There was no independent confirmation of the reports of the rebel operations in the valley or in Zlitan.

Rebels also said they have taken Zawiya, west of the capital, and Ghariyan to the south.

Libyan Oil Minister Omran Abu Kraa headed to Tunisia rather than returning to his country after a trip to Italy, the state- run Tunisian news agency TAP said. Shokri Ghanem, Libya’s former top oil official, defected to join the rebels, according to a June 1 statement from the rebel Transitional National Council.

The rebels announced on Aug. 19 that they had control of the oil refinery at Zawiya and shut its supply to Tripoli while almost encircling the outskirts of the capital. Rebels took the main square in Zawiya, the Associated Press reported yesterday. Qaddafi’s forces remain in the eastern part of the city, the news service said.

Rats Flee Sinking Ship

The New York Times reports Heavy Fighting Reported in Tripoli; Rebels Encircle City

For the first time in months, witnesses in Tripoli reported heavy fighting across the capital late Saturday night, even as rebel forces claimed to have encircled the city by taking major towns to its east, west and south.

“We are coordinating the attacks inside, and our forces from outside are ready to enter Tripoli,” said Anwar Fekini, a rebel leader from the mountainous region in western Libya, speaking by telephone from Tunis. “If you can call any mobile number in Tripoli, you will hear in the background the beautiful sound of the bullets of freedom.”

“The rebels are fleeing like rats, to the mountains,” Colonel Qaddafi said.

He gave no indication of where he might be speaking from, a topic of increasing speculation in recent days as rumors have swirled of his preparing to flee, or perhaps having already left Libya. If Colonel Qaddafi’s location remained unknown, it became increasingly clear Saturday that even his most senior aides were making exits of their own.

The Tunisian state news agency reported Saturday that Libya’s oil minister, Omran Abukraa, had defected to Tunisia, after leaving Tripoli on what was ostensibly a business trip abroad. If confirmed, his defection would be the third of a senior government official in the past week.

Abdel Salam Jalloud, a former Qaddafi deputy, was reported to have defected Friday. A senior security official, Nassr al-Mabrouk Abdullah, flew to Cairo with his family on Monday.

This is the “End of the End of Colonel Qaddafi” and a new beginning for Libya. The question is “a beginning of what?” At this stage there are far more questions than answers.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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