“Six months after the outbreak of the revolt against his 42 years in power, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s hold on his Tripoli stronghold shows signs of slipping.
Residents of Tripoli, the capital, who for months had hesitated to talk openly over the phone, said in calls Friday night that they believed Colonel Qaddafi’s flight or ouster could be imminent. Three people said the feeling of fear was ebbing in the streets.
“It is much quieter today than yesterday and the day before,” said one resident, still not willing to reveal his name. “The situation is getting really tough now.”
With unexpected swiftness, the ill-trained and ill-equipped rebels from the western mountains this week overtook much of the strategic coastal town of Zawiyah, with its enormous oil refinery, just 30 miles west of Tripoli. By Friday they had also taken Gharyan, an important outpost along the trade route to the south. Qaddafi troops had concentrated in both towns, and their retreat in the face of the amateurish rebels raised new doubts about the loyalist forces’ will and cohesion.
As a result of those victories, most of the main roads that had supplied Tripoli have been closed. The city’s residents, accustomed to soaring food prices, weeklong waits for gas and long electrical blackouts, say they are now coping with a crime wave and uncollected garbage. (..)”