Libya’s interior minister has reportedly left the country and travelled to Cairo. Reports also suggest Libyan rebels have taken control of parts of the strategic city of Zawiya, just fifty kilometers west of Gaddaffi’s Tripoli stronghold.
Using a private jet, Gaddafi’s interior minister Nassr al-Mabrouk Abdullah and nine of his family members have entered Egypt on a tourist visa. The minister flew in from Tunisia, said Egyptian airport officials as reported by Associated Press.
“It seems he really has defected. If so, the fleeing of the interior minister is a real blow to the regime,” John Graham, a former diplomat at the US Embassy in Libya, told RT.
The defection from Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, which appears to be the highest level one in recent months, comes with reports that opposition forces in Libya have encircled the country’s capital, Tripoli, and have taken Zawiya on the capital’s outskirts.
“The capture of Zawiya blocks the road from Tunisia. The rebels control the hills south of Tripoli, the Jabal Nafusa, and they control the city of Misrata in the East. They rashly got Tripoli surrounded, which is of course, a real problem for Gaddafi’s forces,” says John Graham.
Gaddafi, addressing his supporters on Monday morning after the claims of victory made by the opposition, called the rebels “rats” and urged his people to “move forward, challenge, pick up your weapons and go to the fight to liberate Libya inch by inch from the traitors and from NATO.” The audio message broadcast by state TV was barely audible, according to Reuters.
Later in Tripoli, government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim denied allegations that representatives of Gaddafi’s regime had been holding talks with the opposition in Tunisia on Sunday night. “This information is absolutely incorrect and it is part of a media war against us. Their target is to confuse us, break our spirit, and shake our morale,” he said.
John Graham does not believe there could be any talks between Gaddafi and the rebels.
“The momentum seems to be shifting towards the rebels,” the ex-diplomat said. “The rebels seem to have no incentive to engage in talks with Gaddafi now. They need to draw Gaddafi out of the country. Anything less than that, any solution in which Gaddafi is left in the country is, in effect, a defeat for the rebels and for NATO.”