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Gaddafi Tightens Hold on Tripoli

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi called on thousands of mercenaries and irregular forces Wednesday to help defend the nation’s capital, Tripoli, while nearby cities fell from his iron control. Not trusting his own army, Gaddafi has for years amassed an irregular force headed by his sons and known to be ruthless and loyal. While the air force and upper-level army officers are members of his own clan and loyal to Gaddafi, his greatest strength arguably comes from the mercenaries from Chad, Sudan, and Niger, in a group called the Pan Islamic Brigade. Witnesses said the force has been gaining strength in Tripoli, while cities as close as 100 miles away fell from Gaddafi’s grip. Protesters gained control of Misrata, Zwara, and an unconfirmed Facebook video showed anti-government protesters raising the pre-Gaddafi flag in Zawiya, 30 miles west of Tripoli. Meanwhile, Egypt estimated that nearly 30,000 refugees have crossed over their border.

February 23, 2011 6:16 PM