Gaddafi losing grip as embattled stronghold hit by internal uprising

LIBYAN dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s grip on power was weaker than ever last night as rebel forces battled toward Tripoli after armed uprisings from within the capital itself.

The British government said yesterday that RAF fighters had played a key role as rebels mounted attacks on Col Gaddafi’s stronghold for the first time.

Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said the Libyan leader was losing his “grip on reality.”

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The rebels launched their first attacks in Tripoli on Saturday as the city was rocked by a night of explosions and heavy gunfire. Col Gaddafi responded with a message on state television condemning the rebels as “vermin” and claiming they were being driven out of the city.

However, Mr Burt said it was clear that the forces of the National Transitional Council had made significant gains.

He said: “Our understanding has always been that there would not be an uprising in the capital until people were fairly sure on the ground that there would be some support available from those outside. Clearly there are forces that have been waiting in Tripoli for the opportunity to express their opposition to the regime. The forces of the National Transitional Council clearly are much closer to Tripoli than they have ever been.”

He also revealed that eight or nine of the British nationals remaining in Libya were set to leave on a ship for Malta yesterday.

Nick Clegg has vowed that Britain would not turn its back on the millions of citizens hoping for a better life from the Arab Spring.

In a speech yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister said Gaddafi’s fate should serve as a message to other dictators who were ignoring their people’s demands.

Nato helps rebellion close in on Tripoli: Page 13.