Opposition Controls Parts Of Libya; Tripoli In Turmoil

In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi's grip on his nation is in jeopardy. Rebels say they are in control of the east of the country. Key members of Gadhafi's regime have abandoned him, and people in Tripoli say protests against his rule continue in the capital.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Throughout this morning's program, we're following the developing situation in Libya, where Moammar Gadhafi's grip on his nation appears to be in jeopardy. Rebels now say that they are in control of the eastern part of the country. Key members of Gadhafi's regime have abandoned him and people in the capital, Tripoli, say protests against his rule continue. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Cairo.

JASON BEAUBIEN: Seven days after protests erupted in the eastern city of Benghazi, residents reached by telephone now say the Eastern part of Libya is in the hands of the opposition.

ASHOUR: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: This man who wants only his first name, Ashour, to be broadcast, is in the city of Derna, between Benghazi and the Egyptian border. He says, the streets in the eastern part of Libya have been overtaken by the revolutionary forces. The battle is now limited to Tripoli.

Media, telephone, and Internet access to Tripoli have all been severely limited over the past few days but residents report street protests calling for Gadhafi to step down continued in the Libyan capital late into Monday night. This woman who doesn't want to give her name out of fear for her safety says all schools and businesses are closed in Tripoli. And she says it's not safe to go out on the streets.

Unidentified Woman: A cousin of mine was shot, so it's a very risky, dangerous situation to be. People who are reported to talk to the media, they disappear immediately. So it's a very concerning situation happening over here.

BEAUBIEN: She says groups of African mercenaries are patrolling Tripoli, shooting at protestors, and in her words, kidnapping young men. She says there have also been masses of men in the streets supporting Gadhafi. The former Libyan ambassador to India, who resigned yesterday in protest over Gadhafi's crackdown, says the Libyan Air Force has been bombing demonstrators. The same claim has been made by several news organizations. And there have been calls for the U.N. to impose a no-fly zone over the Libyan capital. This woman in Tripoli says the reports of aerial bombardment are completely not true.

Unidentified Woman: We've been getting very concerned phone calls, all last night and the night before. Tripoli, there is no bombing whatsoever.

BEAUBIEN: Gadhafi has ruled Libya for the last 42 years. This woman in Tripoli says he appears to be on the verge of being toppled.

Unidentified Woman: Everybody's just waiting for it to happen. They're not hoping, they're waiting. Everybody knows it's going to happen, and it's just a matter of time. Colonel Gadhafi appeared, briefly, on Libyan state television for 15 seconds, this morning, to refute rumors that he'd fled to Venezuela.

Colonel MOAMMAR GADHAFI (Libyan Leader): (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Holding an umbrella as he stepped out of a vehicle in front of his Tripoli home, he said people shouldn't believe the claims of the dogs in the media.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Cairo.

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