Protesters embrace rise of "Free Libya"

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Protesters believe their piece of "Free Libya" will get bigger day by day, Mandy Clark reports.
CBS

TOBROUK, Libya - Libyan rebels were taking joy rides today in tanks seized when the army in the eastern half of the country gave up the fight.

In Tobrouk, CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark and her crew got a firsthand look at the power vacuum left behind. A people's militia, on the side of the protesters, gave them a tour of a weapons depot they were guarding. The ground was littered with dangerous munitions, scattered when retreating troops loyal to Qaddafi blew up the bunkers to keep the weapons out of rebel hands.

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One underground cache was still intact. The men there said they are all local people who will stay on guard here until order is restored.

Muammar Qaddafi was back on State TV today painting a very different picture of the situation. He called in by phone to say the protesters were all misguided young people given drugs by al Qaeda. It was a depressed rather than defiant Qaddafi who said: "Let Bin Laden be in charge of the country and provide for you."

Far from Tripoli, where the fighting has died down, it's a day out for the family.

The main square in Tobrouk is where the protesters are day and night calling for Qaddafi to step down. It's also a celebration because this town is already part of what protesters are calling "free Libya."

"Free Libya" encompasses several areas. The coastal cities where most Libyans live are falling like dominoes to the rebel forces. The port of Tobrouk, then Derna, Beida and Benghazi are now in the hands of protesters. And the latest word is that Misurata, a crucial town close to Tripoli, has slipped from Qaddafi's control.

Benghazi saw some of the worst fighting. Today the wounded were recovering in the hospital and the morgue was full to capacity.

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A doctor told Clark that one dead soldier refused to fire on protesters "so they killed him."

Clark met a group of Army officers who also refused to fight against their fellow citizens.

They told Clark they had all come to their decision to defect on their own and they insisted that Qaddafi has very little support in the army.

Captain Salma Faraj Eissa also made that tough call. And she knows that she now has a price on her head if Qaddafi wins this power struggle.

"We only have one aim - either we all die or Qaddafi goes. I'm not scared at all," she told Clark.

Clearly the protesters believe that it's Qaddafi who's going down and their piece of "Free Libya" will get bigger day by day.