CHICAGO (CBS) — Libyans in the Chicago area were celebrating on Monday as rebel forces appeared to take control of much of Tripoli.
President Barack Obama warned that the situation in Libya remains “fluid” and said “this is not over yet,” but acknowledged that it appears dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s 42-year rule was “coming to an end.”
Gadhafi’s whereabouts remained unknown on Monday and, although Gadhafi loyalists held off rebels trying to enter the dictator’s longtime command center known as Bab al-Azizaya on Monday, NATO vowed to bomb the stronghold soon.
LISTEN: CBS News Correspondent Cami McCormick reports
As CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports, in the middle of the celebrations – but also in the middle of the gunfire – a Bridgeview man has recently returned to Libya, where he was fighting to liberate his homeland.
Ibrahim Elfrijani was a political exile in the U.S. for decades, only joined by his family when they escaped from Libya a few years ago. All are victims of Moammar Gadhafi.
“Since I was a kid, this guy is the guy who separated me from my father and I am looking for him to be captured, ” said Elfrijani’s son, Sanad Abdalla .
Abdalla said his father has been trying to bring medical supplies to Tripoli. They spoke by phone as his father approached the city on Sunday.
“It was like a dream … me talking with my father – wanted by the Gadhafi regime for the last 20 years of his life. Now, he is on the doorsteps of Tripoli, going in with his chin held high – looking for Gadhafi to be captured,” Abdalla said.
Beside a son’s hope of what tomorrow may bring, is the reality of the perils his father faced along the way.
“Two of his buddies were with him in the same spot. They were sitting together. They were killed by a sniper,” he said.
Reached by phone on Sunday, Elfrijani, shared his account of the rebels’ storming of Tripoli with CBS 2 News.
“There is celebration actually for today. We waited for this day for a long time. The Gadhafi people … they just throw their guns, they throw their guns and run,” he said by cell phone outside of Tripoli. .
“As soon as you hear Gadhafi is captured, come on the street and you will see every Libyan run in the street and celebrate,” Abdalla said.
Another Libyan family living in Chicago has special hopes for the revolt. Khalid and Suma Smeda have twin daughters, aged 14 months, who will someday return to the country.
“Each time I look at them, I can’t help myself but smile. They’re going to live in a free country, they’re going to live in a Libya where no one’s going to hunt them down,” Khalid Smeda says of his daughters, little Rayan and Ruba.
Smeda recalls the current regime’s practice of broadcasting hangings during the holy month of Ramadan. Yet Smeda wants no torture, no summary execution for the Libyan dictator.
“We want justice to prevail, not revenge,” he told CBS 2’s Mike Parker. “We want to build a new country. We don’t want to begin it with blood.”