Video: High-profile defections put pressure on Gadhafi

  1. Closed captioning of: High-profile defections put pressure on Gadhafi

    >>> good evening. it is the third front americans are fighting tonight, and tonight the libya story is on the move. there have been some important developments during the day today. first, reports of some sort of a deal possibly in the works to get gadhafi out of there, but his army is still fighting hard, still not letting those rebels advance. despite the u.s. having fired off 227 cruise missiles and flying all those countless air missions. and tonight with nato now in charge of the fight, the air war , the no-fly zone, the u.s. has announced it will no longer fly combat air missions over libya starting tomorrow. we want to begin tonight with nbc's jim maceda who remains inside tripoli for us. jim , good evening.

    >> reporter: hi, brian. even as moammar gadhafi 's forces gain the upper hand against the rebels on the battlefield, his regime is beginning to show signs of collapse from within. these rebels have come full circle . their drive towards tripoli began here in ajdabiya a week ago but they have been driven all the way back to where they started. outgunned and outsoldiered they still dream of taking sirte, gadhafi 's hometown, hundreds of miles away . i tell you by 6:00 p.m . we'll be in sirte, says this rebel, but not tonight. instead the opposition's governing council offered a cease-fire if gadhafi stepped down and pulled his forces back from all of libya 's cities. gadhafi , who hasn't been seen in ten days, rejected the cease-fire terms. still, political pressure on the regime is mounting. today another high-profile defection rocked tripoli . libya 's new u.n. ambassador quit, saying too much blood had been spilled in libya . that on the heels of moussa koussa's defection, gadhafi 's foreign minister and key adviser who is now in great britain being debriefed by british intelligence . and even members of gadhafi 's family, including his son, may be seeking a way out as well. publicly defiant as in this recent interview with nbc news --

    >> this is our country. we live here and we die here.

    >> reporter: but british media speak of secret meetings in london between his top aide and british officials. and just how spooked is gadhafi about a possible flood of defections? well, the government has now assigned security guards to shadow each and every major government official just in case. brian.

    >> jim maceda inside tripoli . jim , thanks for your reporting tonight.

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 4/1/2011 7:09:40 PM ET 2011-04-01T23:09:40

Moammar Gadhafi's forces intensified their onslaught in the western rebel outpost of Misrata on Friday and his government scorned rebel conditions for a nationwide cease-fire.

A rebel leader, speaking after talks with a U.N. envoy in Benghazi, offered a truce on condition that Gadhafi left Libya and his forces quit cities now under government control.

"They are asking us to withdraw from our own cities .... If this is not mad then I don't know what this is. We will not leave our cities," government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told reporters in Tripoli a few hours later.

Rebels speaking from Misrata said Gadhafi's forces had brought their superior firepower to bear on the insurgents' last western enclave with an intense bombardment that was killing and maiming civilians.

"They used tanks, rocket-propelled grenades, mortar rounds and other projectiles to hit the city today. It was random and very intense bombardment," the spokesman, called Sami, told Reuters by telephone. "We no longer recognize the place. The destruction cannot be described.

  1. Top stories: Turmoil in the Middle East
    1. UN: Gadhafi's food stocks to last just weeks
    2. S. African president: Gadhafi ready for truce
    3. Libyan rebels distribute rules on POW treatment
    4. Armed residents put up resistance to Syrian army
    5. Libyan rebels distribute rules on POW treatment

"The pro-Gadhafi soldiers who made it inside the city through Tripoli Street are pillaging the place, the shops, even homes, and destroying everything in the process."

Authorities do not allow journalists to report freely from the city.

Meanwhile, the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph reported the wife of Moussa Koussa, the Libyan foreign minister who defected to Britain earlier this week, has been seized by Gadhafi forces. She being interrogated by Gadhafi's "internal security" officials, the newspaper said.

A doctor in Misrata told Reuters the elite 32nd Brigade had been sent to seize control of the city. "So the question is where is the international community?" he said.

Gadhafi's government in turn accused Western leaders of a "crime against humanity", saying allied warplanes had killed at least six civilians in a new attack. "Some mad and criminal prime ministers and presidents of Europe are leading a crusade against an Arab Muslim nation," Ibrahim said.

Civilian deaths haunt the calculations of coalition governments. Casualties could shatter a fragile consensus between Western and Arab capitals which first called for the U.N. mandate to create a no-fly zone and protect civilians.

PhotoBlog: Reflections about covering Libya

Libyan rebels moved heavier weaponry towards government forces at Brega on Friday and sought to marshal their ragtag units into a more disciplined force to fend off Gadhafi's regular army and turn the tide of recent events.

Rebels said neither side could claim control of Brega, one of a string of oil towns along the Mediterranean coast that have been taken and retaken by each side in recent weeks. Warplanes flew over Brega, followed by the sound of explosions.

Rebels said more trained officers were at the front, heavier rockets were seen moving from the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi towards Ajdabiyah to the south late on Thursday and checkpoints were screening those going through.

"Only those who have large weapons are being allowed through. Civilians without weapons are prohibited," said Ahmed Zaitoun, one of the rebel fighters and part of a brigade of civilian volunteers who have received more training than most.

"Today we have officers coming with us. Before we went alone," he said, and he pointed to a man complaining at being stopped at one of the checkpoints, adding: "He is a young boy and he doesn't have a gun. What will he do up there?"

The new approach has yet to be tested after the rout rebels sustained this week when a two-day rebel advance forward along about 200 km (125 miles) of coast west from Brega was repulsed and turned into a rapid retreat over the following two days.

On the road between Ajdabiyah and Benghazi were newly-dug rebel gun emplacements.

Only two weeks ago, Gadhafi's forces were at the gates of Benghazi and the Libyan leader pledged "No mercy, no pity" for rebels who would be flushed out "house by house, room by room". A U.S. think tank said the military chief of the rebels, Khalifa Hefta, is a veteran Arab nationalist guerrilla foe of Gadhafi who had backing in the past from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Shooting in Tripoli
Heavy gunfire rang out near Gadhafi's fortified compound in Tripoli for about 20 minutes before dawn and residents said they saw snipers on rooftops and heard distant chanting or shouting.

"There were pools of blood on the streets. You will not find anything now. It's been hosed down and cleaned by the fire trucks," said one Tripoli resident.

While Western action has failed to bring any end to fighting or a quick collapse of Gadhafi's administration, signs have emerged of secret contacts between Tripoli and Western capitals.

Koussa defected in London this week. A Gadhafi appointee also declined to take up his post as U.N. ambassador, condemning the "spilling of blood" in Libya. Other reports of defections are unconfirmed.

A British government source said Mohammed Ismail, an aide to Gadhafi's son Saif al-Islam, had been visiting family members in London, but that Britain had "taken the opportunity to send some very strong messages about the Gadhafi regime".

Rebel oil exports
Rebel National Council head Mustafa Abdel Jalil discussed prospects for a cease-fire at a news conference after meeting U.N. special envoy Abdelilah al-Khatibset in Benghazi:

"We have no objection to a cease-fire but on condition that Libyans in western cities have full freedom in expressing their views... Our main demand is the departure of Muammar Gadhafi and his sons from Libya. This is a demand we will not go back on."

There appeared to be confusion over a truce even within rebel ranks. "We do not agree to the cease-fire. We are defending ourselves and our revolution," said rebel spokesman Hafiz Ghoga.

The rebel side was moving quickly to draw income from oil reserves Tripoli says it alone has the right to exploit.

Ali Tarhouni, a top rebel finance official, told a news conference Qatar would provide fuel, medicine, food and other humanitarian needs to rebels as part of a deal eventually to market oil from eastern Libya that remains under a U.N. embargo.

He also said rebels had set up a "quasi-ministry of oil" and oil staff were now working under that body or for the east-based Arabian Gulf Oil Company, which has said it has cut ties with its parent, state-owned National Oil Corp

In other developments:

  • A key Libyan official involved in negotiations on the future of Gadhafi's regime said Friday that Tripoli was attempting to hold talks with the U.S., Britain and France to find a mutual end to the crisis.
  • The U.S. Defense Department announced it will end command missions in Libya on Saturday, leaving the work for other NATO members. The decision drew incredulous reactions from some in Congress.
  • A former Nicaraguan foreign minister who was to become Libya's envoy to the United Nations has dropped those plans and instead will represent Nicaragua at the world body, U.N. officials said on Friday.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Data: Young and restless: Demographics fuel Mideast protests

Photos: Libya's uprising against Gadhafi

loading photos...
  1. People gathering in Benghazi, Libya in mid-February of 2011 as protest against the rule of Moammar Gadhafi grew, in part triggered by the arrest of human rights activist Fethi Tarbel. EDITOR'S NOTE: The content, date and location of this image could not be independently verified. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Buildings at the entrance to a security forces compound burn in Benghazi, Feb. 21, 2011. Libyan protesters celebrated in the streets of Benghazi, claiming control of the country's second largest city after bloody fighting, and anti-government unrest spread to the capital with clashes in Tripoli's main square for the first time. (Alaguri / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi speaks on state television. Feb. 22, and signalled his defiance over a mounting revolt against his 41-year rule. (Libya TV via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Libyan U.N. ambassador Shalgham is embraced by Dabbashi, Libya's deputy U.N. Ambassador after denouncing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi for the first time during a Security Council meeting at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York on Feb. 25. Shalgam, a longtime friend and member of Gadhafi's inner circle, had previously refused to denounce Gadhafi. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Thousands of Libyans gather for the Muslim Friday prayers outside the courthouse in the eastern city of Benghazi on Feb. 25, 2011. Perhaps 8,000 people gathered for the midday prayers with a local imam, who delivered his sermon alongside the coffins of three men killed in the violent uprising that routed Gadhafi loyalists from Benghazi. (Gianluigi Guercia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Rebels hold a young man at gunpoint, who they accuse of being a loyalist to Gadhafi, between the towns of Brega and Ras Lanuf, March 3, 2011. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Pro-Gadhafi soldiers and supporters gather in Green Square in Tripoli, March 6, 2011. Thousands of Moammar Gadhafi's supporters poured into the streets of Tripoli, waving flags and firing their guns in the air in the Libyan leader's main stronghold, claiming overnight military successes. (Ben Curtis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Rebel fighters jump away from shrapnel during heavy shelling by forces loyal to Gadhafi near Bin Jawad, March 6. Rebels in east Libya regrouped and advanced on Bin Jawad after Gadhafi forces ambushed rebel fighters and ejected them from the town earlier in the day. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Libyan rebel fighters take cover as a bomb dropped by an airforce fighter jet explodes near a checkpoint on the outskirts of the oil town of Ras Lanuf on March 7, 2011. (Marco Longari / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Libyan rebels fire rockets at government troops on the frontline. March 9, 2011 near Ras Lanuf. The rebels pushed back government troops westward towards Ben Jawat. (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Libyan government soldiers aboard tanks at the west gate of the town Ajdabiyah March 16, 2011. Libya's army pounded an opposition-held city in the country's west and battled fighters trying to block its advance on a rebel bastion in the east amid flagging diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed. EDITOR'S NOTE: Picture taken on a government guided tour. (Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Libyan people in Benghazi celebrate after the United Nations Security Council authorized a no-fly zone over Libya, March 18. Thousands of Libyans erupted in cheers as the news flashed on a giant screen in besieged Benghazi late March 17. After weeks of discussion, the UN Security Council banned flights in Libya's airspace and authorized "all necessary means" to implement the ban, triggering intervention by individual countries and organizations like NATO. (EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A picture combo shows a Libyan jet bomber crashing after being apparently shot down in Benghazi on March 19, 2011 as the Libyan rebel stronghold came under attack. Air strikes and sustained shelling of the city's south sent thick smoke into the sky. (Patrick Baz / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Residents of Benghazi flee the city along the road toward Tobruk, in an attempt to escape fighting in their city, March 19, 2011. Gaddafi's troops pushed into the outskirts of Benghazi, a city of 670,000 people, in an apparent attempt to pre-empt Western military intervention expected after a meeting of Western and Arab leaders in Paris. (Reuters TV) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Vehicles belonging to forces loyal to Gadhafi explode after an air strike by coalition forces, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah March 20, 2011. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A rebel fighter carries his weapon outside the northeastern Libyan town of Ajdabiyah, March 21, 2011. A wave of air strikes hit Gaddafi's troops around Ajdabiyah, a strategic town in the barren, scrub of eastern Libya that rebels aim to retake and where their fighters said they need more help. (Finbarr O'reilly / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A Libyan rebel prays next to his gun on the frontline of the outskirts of the city of Ajdabiya, south of Benghazi, March 21, 2011. The international military intervention in Libya is likely to last "a while," a top French official said, echoing Moammar Gadhafi's warning of a long war ahead as rebels, energized by the strikes on their opponents. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Libyan rebels retreat as mortars from Gadhafi's forces are fired on them near the outskirts of the city of Ajdabiya, March 22, 2011. Coalition forces bombarded Libya for a third straight night, targeting the air defenses and forces of Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi, stopping his advances and handing some momentum back to the rebels, who were on the verge of defeat. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A Libyan man is comforted by hospital staff as he reacts after identifying his killed brother in the morgue of the Jalaa hospital in Benghazi, March 22, 2011. His brother was killed earlier in fighting around the city of Ajdabiya. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Volunteer fighters training at a rebel army training camp in Benghazi, March 29, 2011. Pro-government forces intensified their attacks on Libyan rebels, driving them back over ground they had taken in recent days. The rebels had reached Nawfaliya, but pulled back to Bin Jawad. (Manu Brabo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Smoke billows as seven explosions were reported in the tightly-guarded residence of leader Moammar Gadhafi and military targets in the suburb of Tajura. Two explosions also rocked the Libyan capital Tripoli on March 29, 2011, as NATO-led coalition aircraft had been seen in the skies over the capital. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A Libyan rebel urges people to leave, as shelling from Gadhafi's forces started landing on the frontline outside of Bin Jawaad, 93 miles east of Sirte, March 29, 2011. (Anja Niedringhaus / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. General Abdel-Fattah Younis, former interior minister in the Gadhafi regime who defected in the early days of the uprising, is greeted by Libyan rebels at the front line near Brega, April 1, 2011. (Altaf Qadri / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Libyan men show the V-sign for victory as they stand on the deck of a Turkish ship arriving from Misrata to the port of Benghazi who were evacuated along with others the injured in the fighting between rebel and Gadhafi forces, April 03, 2011. The Turkish vessel took hundreds of people wounded in the Libyan uprising for treatment in Turkey from the two cities of Misrata and Benghazi. (Mahmud Hams / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A wounded prisoner from Gadhafi's forces is transported in the back of a pickup truck by rebels, on the way to a hospital for treatment, half way between Brega and Ajdabiya, April 9, 2011. Rebels say they took two prisoners after a clash with soldiers near Brega's university outside the government-controlled oil facilities, marking a noticeable advance by rebels. (Ben Curtis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. In this image taken from TV, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi makes a pubic appearance in Tripoli, April 14 2011. Gadhafi defiantly waved at his supporters while being driven around Tripoli while standing up through the sunroof of a car. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. A rebel fighter celebrates as his comrades fire a rocket barrage toward the positions of government troops April 14, 2011, west of Ajdabiyah. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Gadhafi supporters hold copies of his portrait as they gather at the Bab Al Azizia compound in Tripoli, April 15, 2011. Rebels held much of eastern Libya by mid-April, while Gadhafi controlled the west, with the front line shifting back and forth in the middle. (Pier Paolo Cito / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Doctors work on a baby who suffered cuts from shrapnel that blasted through the window of his home during fighting in the besieged city of Misrata, April 18, 2011. Thousands of civilians are trapped in Misrata as fighting continues between Libyan government forces that have surrounded the city and anti-government rebels there. The Libyan government has come under international criticism for using heavy weapons and artillery in its assault on Misrata. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. MISRATA, LIBYA - APRIL 20: Libyan rebel fighters discuss how to dislodge some ensconced government loyalist troops who were firing on them from the next room during house-to-house fighting on Tripoli Street in downtown Misrata April 20, 2011 in Misrata, Libya. Rebel forces assaulted the downtown positions of troops loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi April 20, briefly forcing them back over a key bridge and trapping several in a building that fought back instead of surrendering, firing on the rebels in the building and seriously wounding two of them during the standoff. Fighting continues between Libyan government forces that have surrounded the city and anti-government rebels ensconced there. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images) (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Libyan rebel fighters carry out a comrade wounded during an effort to dislodge some ensconced government loyalist troops who were firing on them from a building during house-to-house fighting on Tripoli Street in downtown Misrata April 20, 2011. Rebel forces assaulted the downtown positions of troops loyal to Gaddafi, briefly forcing them back over a key bridge and trapping several in a building where they fought back instead of surrendering. Two rebels were seriously wounded during the standoff. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Rebels tread carefully as they prepare to invade a house where soldiers from the pro-government forces had their base in the Zwabi area of Misrata on April 24, 2011. (Andre Liohn / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Libyans inspect damage and an unexploded missile at the Gadhafi family compound in a residential area of Tripoli, May 1, 2011. Gadhafi escaped a NATO missile strike in Tripoli that killed one of his sons and three young grandchildren. EDITOR'S NOTE: Photo taken on a government guided tour. (Darko Bandic / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Moammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, center, leaves the funeral of his brother Saif Al-Arab Gadhafi, who was killed during air strikes by coalition forces, at the El Hani cemetery in Tripoli, May 2, 2011. Crowds chanting Gadhafi's name gathered in Tripoli for the funeral of his son and three grandchildren. (Louafi Larbi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Fleeing migrants and Libyans are seen on board an International Organization of Migration ship leaving the port of Misrata on May 4, 2011, as Gadhafi forces continued to pound the city. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Libyan men watch as the main fuel depot in Libya's third largest city, Misrata, burns following a bombing by Gadhafi's forces on May 7, 2011. Libyan regime forces shelled fuel depots in Misrata and dropped mines into its harbor using helicopters bearing the Red Cross emblem, rebels said as they braced for a ground assault. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Libyan rebels celebrate near the airport of Misrata on May 11, 2011 after capturing the city's strategic airport following a fierce battle with Moammar Gadhafi's troops -- their first significant advance in weeks. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Women react after a protest against Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Benghazi, Libya, on May 16, 2011. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, announced that he would seek arrest warrants against the leader of Libya, Moammar Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and the country's intelligence chief on charges of crimes against humanity. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Tripoli street in Misrata is seen from the terrace of a building used by Gadhafi’s snipers before the rebels took control of the area on May 22, 2011. The weeks-long siege of the city ended in mid-May and Tripoli Street was the site of the fiercest fighting in the battle and a turnin point in the war. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. A rebel fighter gives water to a soldier loyal to Gadhafi after he was wounded and then captured near the front line, west of Misrata on May 23, 2011. (Rodrigo Abd / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. An uncle, left, prays over the body of one and a half year-old Mohsen Ali al-Sheikh during a washing ritual during the funeral at his family's house in Misrata, May 27, 2011. The child was killed by a gunshot during clashes between rebels and pro-Gadhafi forces earlier in the day. (Wissam Saleh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. The body of a drowned refugee floats near a capsized ship which was transporting an estimated 850 refugees from Libya, approximately 22 miles north of the Tunisian islands of Kerkennah, June 4, 2011. At least 578 survived the sinking. (Lindsay Mackenzie / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. A photograph taken from a video by a National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter shows Mutassem Gadhafi, son of Moammar Gadhafi, drinking water and smoking a cigarette following his capture and shortly before his death, in Sirte, Oct. 20, 2011. (- / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. A photograph taken from mobile phone video of a National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter shows the capture of Moammar Gadhafi in Sirte on Oct. 20, 2011. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. This image provided by the Libyan Youth Group on Nov. 19, 2011, shows Seif al-Islam Gadhafi after he was captured near the Niger border with Libya. Moammar Gadhafi's son, the only wanted member of the ousted ruling family to remain at large, was captured as he traveled with aides in a convoy in Libya's southern desert. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  1. Image: A photo said to show people gathering during recent days' unrest in Benghazi, Libya. The content, date and location of the image could not be independently verified.
    AP
    Above: Slideshow (81) Conflict in Libya
  2. Image: TO GO WITH AFP PACKAGE ON THE 40TH ANNIV
    AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (34) Moammar Gadhafi through the years

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments