Rebels tighten grip on Tripoli

Gaddafi forces pushed to southern outskirts of Libyan capital following street-to-street rebel onslaught.

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    A street-by-street rebel onslaught has pushed the remnants of Muammar Gaddafi’s army to the southern outskirts of Tripoli, securing nearly all of the capital and closing in on victory.

    By late Friday, rebel troops using automatic weapons and trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns and field artillery had control of the Abu Salim district and was pushing further south, into the Salaheddin and Tartouk areas.

    The fiercest remaining pocket of resistance was in Tartouk, around the barracks of the Khamis Brigade, considered Gaddafi’s best-trained fighting force.

    At around 7 pm, a crowd of civilians and rebels near the barracks scattered under rifle fire coming from nearby residential buildings.

    Rebels responded in force, turning their guns in the direction of suspected snipers and blasting chunks out of the buildings' concrete facades.

    More loyalist fire came from other directions and the barracks, indicating that rebels were still battling for control of one of the final bastions of Gaddafi's military power in the capital.

    Hospitals under siege

    The fighting has triggered a humanitarian crisis with hospitals struggling to cope with the flood of wounded as supplies run scarce.

    The putrefying bodies of around 80 people were found in a hospital on Friday, apparently the unlucky victims of fighting that prevented the wounded from being treated, reported AFP news agency.


    Tripoli hospitals struggle to cope with injuries

    Doctors at the hospital in Abu Salim said snipers loyal to Gaddafi kept new patients and health care workers away from the facility.

    A lack of supplies, nurses and surgeons has contributed to the difficulties in dealing with the injured.

    "It is a disaster," said medical-student-turned-nurse Mohammed Yunis.

    "There is no more medicine in the hospital, no more medical personnel. They all left for fear of the snipers."

    Yunis said numerous bodies had already been removed from the hospital.

    "There have been hundreds of deaths (in Tripoli) in recent days," he said, visibly shaken.

    NATO targets Sirte

    Elsewhere in the country, British warplanes struck a large bunker in Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, as NATO turned its attention to loyalist forces battling advancing Libyan rebels in the area, according to the Associated Press news agency. 

    In London, Liam Fox, the defence secretary, said some elements of the Gaddafi regime were in Sirte "where they are still continuing to wage war on the people of Libya". 

    He said NATO would continue to strike at the Gaddafi's forces' military capability. 

    "The regime needs to recognize that the game is up," Fox said.

    The rebels have offered a reward to anyone who kills or captures the 69-year-old Gaddafi, whose whereabouts and those of his powerful sons remain unknown.

    Despite the ongoing clashes, Sean Foley, a scholar at the Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation in Malaysia, said the rebels had overcome hurdles in six months to remove a "well-entrenched" regime.

    "This is an opposition force that only six months ago didn't exist," he told Al Jazeera.

    "Over the last six months it has built an impressive array of allies around the world, and it's fought a war on the ground against a well-entrenched, well-financed and well-thought out opposition and government.

    "This opposition and government-in-waiting has been extremely impressive. It seems to be only a matter of time before they finish what they need to do."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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