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Rebels fight for full control of Tripoli
Rebel reinforcements stream into Libyan capital to aid fight against forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.
Last Modified: 25 Aug 2011 11:40

Rebel reinforcements have streamed into the Libyan capital, Tripoli, to join in the fight against Muammar Gaddafi loyalists, who are putting up strong resistance in some pockets of the city.

Fighters from the port city of Misrata have joined fellow rebels who spearheaded the weekend assault that saw the Libyan capital swiftly overrun and Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound falling to the rebels.

Fighting on Thursday was concentrated along the perimeters of Bab al-Aziziya and the neighbouring Abu Salim district, where Gaddafi reportedly released, armed and paid former prisoners to fight for his regime.

A rebel spokesman told Al Jazeera that "Libyan territory is 90 to 95 per cent under the control of the rebellion".

Colonel Abdullah Abu Afra said "the fall of Bab al-Aziziya marked the end of the Gaddafi regime in Tripoli and in Libya" after 42 years in power.

Maram Wafa, a resident of Tripoli, echoed this when she told Al Jazeera on Thursday that rebels controlled the majority of the city but that there was still heavy fighting in pockets of the city.

"The city is full of snipers, the streets are not safe, and everyone is staying indoors," she said.

Concern over attacks

Sue Turton, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Tripoli, reported on Thursday that locals are very worried that there are going to be attacks by pro-Gaddafi supporters across the city.

"There are check points popping up all over the city. Locals are managing to get hold of weapons to police their streets," she said.

"There is a lot of nervousness … people are very worried that Gaddafi loyalists are coming through these streets.

"They are worried that there will be some sort of attacks across the city, not just in areas we know about but even in areas like this that look quite sleepy.

"We've been told about clashes as rebels try to regain control of Abu Salim, the pro-Gaddafi neighbourhood that took a lot of casualties yesterday when rebels took on Gaddafi loyalists there."

The rebels are also determined to find Gaddafi, and have offered amnesty and a reward to anyone who kills or captures the 69-year-old Libyan leader.

In Benghazi, the National Transitional Council (NTC) told a news conference on Wednesday that Libyan business people had contributed $1.7m for the cash reward.

"The NTC supports the initiative of businessmen who are offering two million dinars for the capture of Muammar Gaddafi, dead or alive," Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the NTC chief, said.

NATO hunts Gaddafi

Liam Fox, Britain's defence minister, said on Thursday that NATO is supporting Libyan rebels in hunting Gaddafi and his sons and has stepped up air raids targeting Gaddafi loyalists.

"I can confirm that NATO is providing intelligence and reconnaissance assets to the NTC to help them track down Colonel Gaddafi and other remnants of the regime," he told Sky News channel.

He declined to comment on a report in Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper that British special forces were on the ground in Libya assisting with the hunt.

Fox said NATO operations would continue until pockets of resistance containing Gaddafi loyalists were eliminated, and this could take some time.

"There was increased NATO activity last night including British fast jets because there are areas of resistance by the regime which has had considerable levels of military expertise, still has stockpiles of weapons and still has the ability for command and control.

"They may take some time to completely eliminate and it is likely there will be some frustrating days ahead before the Libyan people are completely free of the Gaddafi legacy."

Gaddafi's location was still unknown on Thursday, but as a reminder that he remained on the loose, the defiant leader made an audio address broadcast earlier on Wednesday by the al-Rai television channel. In the address he called on Tripoli residents to repel the rebels' advance.

The fight for Sirte

Elsewhere in the country, rebel commanders said they are readying fresh attempts to advance against Gaddafi's forces in his hometown Sirte, 360km east of the capital and to break a siege of Zuwarah, a town to the west.

Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Ras Lanuf, 200km from Sirte, said rebels there were assembling heavy weaponry in anticipation of an assault on the Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte.

However, Scott Heidler, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the eastern city of Benghazi, said there had already been a stop to rebel advancement towards the Gaddafi stronghold.

"So we are facing a battle in the coming hours," he said.

Rebels advancing towards Sirte were also blocked on Wednesday in the town of Bin Jawad as loyalists kept up stiff resistance.

"Gaddafi's forces are still fighting, we are surprised. We thought they would surrender with the fall of Tripoli," rebel commander Fawzi Bukatif said.

Rebels said Gaddafi forces were pounding rebels holding the centre of Zuwarah, west of Tripoli, adding that they needed reinforcements to help them break the siege.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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