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How Qaddafi started losing Libya

Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city and a long-time opposition hub, started a wave of rebellion against Muammar Qaddafi that is now closing in on Tripoli.

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Libyan youths stood on a destroyed tank at the military barracks in Benghazi, where Libyan special forces mutinied to join with protesters and force Qaddafi loyalists to flee.

Hussein Malla/AP

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The ruins of the sprawling military barracks in Benghazi, where a group of angry youths took on Libyan troops and won, will likely be remembered as the place where Muammar Qaddafi's downfall became inevitable.

Charred barracks and interrogation buildings, dozens of burned cars, and holes punched through the base's cement perimeter by backhoes and trucks tell the story of two fierce days of fighting that saw the bulk of Colonel Qaddafi's mixed force of foreign mercenaries and loyalists driven from Libya's second-largest city.

The rout of Qaddafi's supporters here on the Mediterranean, and the defections of almost every local Air Force and Army unit, certainly seems a harbinger of his downfall.

There were credible reports Friday that military bases at Tajura and Misratah, near the capital of Tripoli, had also defected. If true, the remainder of Qaddafi's 41-year reign will probably be measured in days.

The fall of Benghazi

Faraj al-Nafi was one of the young men in Benghazi who took up stones, Molotov cocktails, and homemade bombs against pro-Qaddafi forces and their heavy caliber weapons on the evening of Feb. 17. A week later, he explains how he had gotten a call from relatives in Benghazi saying that change – real change – was possible. After making the 40-mile trip from his small farming town, he was soon on the front lines.

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