City near Tripoli falls to Kadafi opponents

Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

Moammar Kadafi’s weak hold on Libya loosened further Sunday as the city closest to the capital fell firmly into the hands of his opponents.

Zawiya, a city of 210,000 just 30 miles west of Tripoli, appeared to be a potential focal point for clashes as anti-government forces mounted tanks and anti-aircraft guns throughout the city center, and Kadafi forces surrounded the outskirts with tanks and military checkpoints, according to an Associated Press reporter who visited the city.

In the eastern portion of the country, the cradle of the opposition movement moved to establish a provisional government. In Benghazi, the city that gave birth to the 11-day crisis, the city council appointed a former justice minister to lead it.


“All of a sudden, we are in charge not only of a city, but a revolution,” said Iman Bugaighis, a professor of orthodontics who was drafted as unofficial spokeswoman for the so-called “Feb. 17 Revolution” committee.

Committees and subcommittees, made up of about 150 lawyers, judges, doctors, businessmen and young people, have been set up to deal with city services, banking, education, health, security and more. Donations of food, medicine and cash have flooded the courthouse, said Mustafa Gheriani, who helps coordinate committee activities from a bare corner office.

But no one expected Kadafi to fall easily. His son Seif Islam continued his appearances on international television broadcasts to assert that the government was regaining control, and the government attempted to appease the uprising with an announcement on state television Sunday that $400 grants would be distributed to each Libyan family as part of the “beginning of the redistribution of oil wealth to Libyans.”

Meanwhile, the regional unrest continued to play out in nations across the Middle East with new violence igniting in Oman.

At least two people were killed and eight injured, according to Reuters, in clashes between security forces and hundreds of protesters demanding political reforms in the strategic Gulf country. It was the second day of protests and suggested that a government shakeup and increase in student stipends by Oman’s ruler on Saturday had failed to quell the tensions.

The Al Jazeera television network showed crowds shouting: “We want democracy. We want corrupt ministers to go. We want jobs.”