Fighting escalated in the streets of Tripoli on Saturday night as anti-Gaddafi rebels began a push to finally free Libya from the oppressive grasp of Muammar Gaddafi.
Residents Join Rebels Against Libyan Regime
Witnesses and rebels reported hearing explosions and gunfire beginning shortly after sunset on Saturday evening. Protests mingled with fighting were seen in the eastern neighborhoods of Souq a-Jomaa and Tajoura. Later on, starting around 9pm, citizens began to leave their homes in Fashloum, Fournaj, Sabah, Ghoud al-Shayal, Hanshir and Dahra neighborhoods, joining together to protest and fight.
Residents also could be seen leaving mosques to join in the protests while chanting “God is great!”
Women and Children Remain Home
Libyans living outside of their country who were in communication with family and friends still within the capital said that men, some armed and some not, were going out to protest the regime of Gaddafi while their women and children remained at home. In addition NATO fighter planes were reported to have bombed the city during the night.
Government Spokesmen Claims Success Against Rats
Moussa Ibrahim, a spokesman for the government of Libya, announced that although rebels did attempt to attack the city, the government had “dealt with” the situation.
Early on Sunday morning Libyan state television broadcast Ibrahim riding in a car, surrounded by dozens of supporters in central Tripoli’s Green Square. Although Gaddafi himself was not shown during the broadcast, an audio message was released in which Gaddafi congratulates Tripoli’s residents for repelling an attack by “rats.”
“Sure, there were some armed militants who escaped into some neighborhoods and there were some scuffles,” Ibrahim said. “But we dealt with it within a half hour and it is now calm.”
Spokesman Says Libya is Safe
Ibrahim added that volunteers fighting on behalf of the Gaddafi regime had repelled the attacks by insurgents in many of the capital’s neighborhoods. He also denied that the regime is on the verge of collapsing. Yet, more gunfire could be heard after the television broadcast.
Foreign correspondents holed up in the hotel in Tripoli in which their movements are closely watched could clearly hear the sounds of mortar rounds and gun battles continuing.