After shelling and sniping at the rebels in Misrata for weeks, Qaddafi’s forces suddenly pulled out yesterday.Although this news was celebrated by some rebels who declared that “Misrata is free,” there are many reasons to worry.
Government fighters said they were leaving because local tribes and people were ready to assert order in favour of Qaddafi. Tribal leaders are trying to convince the Misrata rebels to lay down arms right now, the government tells the AP. If they have not surrendered within 48 hours, the tribes will send in 60,000 armed men to wage their own war against the rebels.
Misrata is not an area with large or dominant tribes, however, and it is unclear why they would support Qaddafi, according to the AP.
Some say this is another devious tactic by Qaddafi, who several weeks ago retreated from Benghazi to Sirt, only to retake this land in a crushing counter attack.
Rebel spokesman Col. Ahmed Bani tells the NYT: “It’s a trick. He’s playing deadly games. He can’t give up Misurata this easily. He knows that if Misurata falls in our hands, it opens the way for Tripoli to fall in our hands.”
7:56 ET: An activist twitter account says: “Gaddafi militias dressed up as civilians are starting to attack the city from its southern end using heavy weaponry”