Muammar Gaddafi urged Libyans to take up arms and crush an uprising in Tripoli as rebel troops closed on the capital for a final onslaught on his stronghold.
“I am afraid if we don’t act, they will burn Tripoli,” he said in an audio address broadcast on state television. “There will be no more water, food, electricity or freedom.”
Thousands of rebel fighters 15 miles west of Tripoli were moving toward the capital yesterday evening. As they advanced, they took control of a barracks belonging to the Khamis brigade, an elite security unit commanded by one of Gaddafi’s sons, Khamis.
In a coordinated revolt that rebel cells had been secretly preparing for months, shooting started on Saturday night across Tripoli, moments after Muslim clerics, using the loudspeakers on mosque minarets, called people on to the streets.
The fighting inside Tripoli, combined with rebel advances, appeared to signal the decisive phase in a six-month conflict that has become the bloodiest of the “Arab Spring” uprisings and embroiled NATO powers.
In Benghazi, the eastern Libyan city where the anti-Gaddafi revolt started and where the rebels have their main stronghold, a senior official said everything was going according to plan.