Wild celebrations erupted in Libya’s besieged rebel-held city of Misrata as the news that the international criminal court had issued an arrest warrant for Muammar Gaddafi spread through the city.
Warrants for arrest over crimes against humanity committed against opponents of the Libyan regime were also issued for Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, and the Libyan intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi.
Thousands of citizens bearing the Libyan rebel tricolour streamed into the central Liberation Square, while surrounding roads were jammed with cars and pickup trucks hooting their horns. Fighters fired volleys of machine-gun fire in the air in streets surrounding the square.
“I’m happy, more than happy,” said Ahmed Badi, a Misrata businessman. “We knew he was a criminal, now all the world knows he is a criminal.”
Sheikh Khalifa Zuwawi, chair of Misrata council, said: “This shows we have the right to make this revolution. We hope now all the world will work together to catch Gaddafi.”
For a besieged city which has endured more than four months of fighting and suffers a daily pounding of grad missiles fired from government forces, Monday’s celebrations were a moment of rare relief.
“Now the world sees that the people here do not want Gaddafi, the world stands with us,” said Sanussi Abdulrahman, a banker.
Concerns among diplomats that the arrest warrant may close the door to Gaddafi fleeing into exile were not shared, at least in public, by rebel fighters.
“It is better that he stays in Libya,” said Commander Abdulhassan Swehli, leader of a rebel brigade on the frontline west of the city. “So Gaddafi has lost his last chance.”
Misrata’s rebel administration says that in the event of victory it plans to bring war crimes charges against several dozen generals and senior Gaddafi administration officials, with the ICC expected to confine its work only to Gaddafi and his top-most officials. Agencies