Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Explosions around Gaddafi compound
Heavy fighting is taking place in areas of Tripoli for a second day, with opposition forces concentrating their firepower on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's compound in the Bab al-Azizya district of the Libyan capital.
The al-Mansoura district was also the focus of fierce clashes between government forces and opposition fighters on Tuesday, two days after the rebels marched into the heart of the city, prompting scenes of jubiliation.
But Gaddafi's forces are reportedly fighting back using heavy weapons including mortars and shells fired in the direction of Green Square, which rebels have renamed Martyrs' Square, casting doubts on opposition claims that much of the city was under their control.
Al Jazeera's James Bays said he could see smoke rising into the sky from the vicinity of Gaddafi's compound. The Libyan leader's whereabouts is unknown.
"The battle is certainly not over. The city is on a knife edge," our correspondent said.
There have been reports of NATO planes flying very low on top of Gaddafi's compound.
In a dramatic development, Saif al-Islam, the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, appeared in al-Mansoura early on Tuesday morning to refute claims that he had been captured by opposition forces and rally government loyalists.
"There is confusion among the ranks of opposition fighters on the ground," Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reporting from Tripoli said. "Some people are asking whether the National Transitional Council has been infiltrated."
The head of Libya's opposition National Transitional Council (NTC) on Monday announced the end of Gaddafi's decades-long rule.
But the re-appearance of Saif, an influential figure who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, has raised fresh questions about the NTC leadership's grip on a fast-changing situation.
Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, Marwan Bishara, analyses the fight for Tripoli and what it means for Libya
Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland reporting from Benghazi said: "Now we are seeing accusations, doubts, and confusion.
"It is going to be interesting to see how the NTC explains this debacle and how it seeks to reinforce and strengthen these alliances and enable the rebels to get to Tripoli itself."
The NTC held a joint press conference in Benghazi with Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister on Tuesday.
"We stand by NTC leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil ... He established the path for Libya for the future," Davutoglu said.
The celebrations that followed the rebels push into central Tripoli on Sunday night, when opposition force took control of the Green Square and claimed victory, gave way to caution and confusion on Monday as they were met by resistance.
Throughout Monday, there was gunfire near Gaddafi's compound in the west of the city. Rebels set up checkpoints throughout the neighbourhoods in an attempt to maintain law and order.
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"While Gaddafi's forces have withdrawn from most areas of Tripoli, sleeper cells haven't," Khodr said.
Gaddafi supporters also remained in control of the Rixos hotel, where foreign correspondents have been based throughout the six-month conflict.
Snipers scattered across the city continued to wage resistance, while a rebel convoy was ambushed by Gaddafi loyalists using anti-aircraft weapons.
An opposition fighter told Al Jazeera: "We haven't been able to launch an attack we are waiting for more men and heavy weapons."
Elsewhere in the country, the US military said that its warplanes had shot down a scud missile fired from Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown, indicating that remnants of Gaddafi's forces were continuing to resist.
Rebel fighters in eastern Libya advanced towards the oil terminal of Ras Lanuf after taking the coastal town of Ageila from forces loyal to Gaddafi.
Moussa Ibrahim, the government spokesperson, claimed Gaddafi forces had control of at least 75 per cent of Tripoli. But rebels said Gaddafi supporters only held about 20 per cent of the city.
The tenuous nature of the rebel's grip on Tripoli has dampened rebel hopes of a swift victory and raised concerns that the city of two million people could be the stage for a protracted armed struggle.
Source: Al Jazeera and Agencies