Print options

August 14, 2011

Libyan Official Arrives in Cairo After Apparent Defection

A senior Libyan Interior Ministry official has flown to the Egyptian capital with nine family members in what appears to be another defection from leader Moammar Gadhafi's government.

Nassr al-Mabrouk Abdullah and his relatives arrived in Cairo early Monday on a private jet from the Tunisian resort island of Djerba. Although Egyptian officials at first identified Abdullah as Libya's interior minister, Libyan and Egyptian officials were later quoted by news agencies as calling him a deputy interior minister. Abdullah entered Egypt on a tourist visa and did not meet any representatives of Gadhafi's embassy in Cairo.

Meeting with rebels

Western news agencies quote sources in Djerba as saying Gadhafi aides met Libyan rebels at a local hotel on Sunday. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Libya envoy Abdul Ilah al-Khatib arrived in Tunisia Monday to join the talks between the two sides.

In an audio message broadcast on Libyan state television Monday, Gadhafi urged his people to fight to "to liberate Libya" from rebels who began their uprising in February to end his 42-year rule. He called the rebels "traitors" and denounced NATO as a "colonizer" for staging airstrikes in support of the uprising.

Zawiya

Rebels said Monday they were in control of most of Zawiya, a strategic town 50 kilometers west of Mr. Gadhafi's power base in the capital, Tripoli. Rebel fighters entered Zawiya Saturday in their closest approach to the capital since government forces crushed Zawiya's rebel movement in the early weeks of the uprising.

Pro-Gadhafi forces exchanged fire with rebel fighters in Zawiya Monday, trying to push them back from the town center.

Rebel spokesmen said their fighters also captured the towns of Surman, 60 kilometers west of Tripoli, and Gharyan, 80 kilometers south of the capital. Their claims could not be independently verified. Rebels in Libya's Western Mountains have been trying to cut off Tripoli's supply routes as they edge closer to the capital.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.