Qaddafi's control of Tripoli in doubt as rebels advance

Residents of Tripoli, the capital, who for months had hesitated to talk openly over the phone, said in calls Friday night that they believed Colonel Qaddafi’s flight or ouster could be imminent. Three people said the feeling of fear was ebbing in the streets…

Many residents, fearing a bloody fight, are trying to flee. Rebels said that among them was Abdel Salam Jalloud, a leading figure in the 1969 revolution that brought Colonel Qaddafi to power. If confirmed, his would be the second high-profile defection in five days…

As the fighting draws closer to Tripoli, residents are feeling the pressure. For the first time, they say, they cannot easily leave the city. Hundreds have clogged narrow back roads as they try to flee to the relative safety of the rebel-held mountains to the south.

That the mountains would beckon as a refuge is a measure of their fear, since conditions there are often hardly comfortable. Electricity and many supplies are still scarce, and some towns were deserted when Qaddafi forces shelled them earlier.