Sustained automatic gunfire and a series of explosions rang out in
Tripoli overnight as rebels launched efforts to permanently free
the Libyan capital from Muammar Gaddafi's grasp, according to
reports from witnesses and rebels.
said they launched their first attack on Tripoli in coordination
with NATO late Saturday, and Associated Press reporters heard
unusually heavy gunfire and explosions in the capital. The
fighting erupted just hours after opposition fighters captured the
key city of Zawiya nearby.
gunfire rocked the city after sunset on Saturday, and witnesses
reported street protests and fighting in the eastern
neighbourhoods of Souq al-Jomaa, Arada and Tajoura. Residents took
to the streets beginning at around 9pm local time, many of them
emerging from mosques and chanting "God is great".
Libyans speaking to family members in the capital said their
relatives described men going out to protest, some with weapons,
while children and women were asked to stay home.
spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said rebels had tried to attack Tripoli
but had been "dealt with".
on state television in the early morning hours in Tripoli's
central Green Square, riding in a car and surrounded by tens of
supporters. Gaddafi himself never appeared, though he released an
audio message congratulating citizens for repelling an attack by
were some armed militants who escaped into some neighbourhoods and
there were some scuffles," Ibrahim said. "But we dealt with it
within a half hour and it is now calm."
that pro-regime volunteers had repelled insurgents' attacks in
several neighbourhoods. He dismissed mounting speculation that the
regime was on the brink, but more gunfire was heard after he spoke
Gun battles and the explosion of apparent mortar
rounds could be heard clearly at the hotel where foreign
correspondents stay in the capital. Their movements are tightly
restricted by the regime.