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World News

February 22, 2011

Gadhafi's grip on Libya weakens

Protesters say they're in control of 2nd-largest city

(Continued)

The witnesses reported seeing casualties, but the number could not be confirmed. The witness named Fathi said he saw at least two he believed were dead and many more wounded. After midnight, protesters took over the main Tripoli offices of state-run satellite stations Al-Jamahiriya-1 and Al-Shebabiya, a witness said.

Fragmentation is a real danger in Libya, a country of deep tribal divisions and a historic rivalry between Tripoli and Benghazi. The system of rule created by Gadhafi — the "Jamahiriya," or "rule by masses" — is highly decentralized, run by "popular committees" in a complicated hierarchy that effectively means there is no real center of decision-making except Gadhafi, his sons and their top aides.

Seif has often been put forward as the regime's face of reform and is often cited as a likely successor to his father. Seif's younger brother, Mutassim, is the national security adviser, with a strong role in the military and security forces. Another brother, Khamis, heads the army's 32nd Brigade, which according to U.S. diplomats is the best-trained and best-equipped force in the military.

The revolt in Benghazi and other cities in the east illustrated the possibility of the country rumbling.

In Benghazi, cars honked their horns in celebration and protesters in the streets chanted "Long live Libya" yesterday, a day after bloody clashes that killed at least 60 people.

Benghazi's airport was closed, according to an airport official in Cairo. A Turkish Airlines flight trying to land in Benghazi to evacuate Turkish citizens was turned away yesterday, told by ground control to circle over the airport, then to return to Istanbul.

There were fears of chaos as young men — including regime supporters — seized weapons from the Katiba and other captured security buildings. "The youths now have arms and that's worrying," said Iman, a doctor at the main hospital. "We are appealing to the wise men of every neighborhood to rein in the youths."

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