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Intense fighting in Libya as Gaddafi holds on to power

Sunday March 06, 2011 06:39:27 PM, IANS

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Cairo: Pitched battles were fought in Libya, with gunfire being reported in capital Tripoli Sunday as troops loyal to 68-year-old leader Muammar Gaddafi attempted to wrest back control of towns taken over by rebels.

Gunfire erupted in Tripoli which has been till now the stronghold of Gaddafi, who has ruled the country after taking over in a bloodless coup in 1969.

Witnesses, cited by Al Jazeera, said that automatic weapon rounds could be heard early in the morning around central Tripoli along with pro-government chants and loud blowing of car horns.

Reports from Green Square in Tripoli said that a large number of people had turned up to show their support to Gaddafi.

"The square is absolutely thronged with supporters of Gaddafi," the Al Jazeera correspondent said as there were celebrations over the Libyan leader's claimed tactical advances.

Though Tripoli is still in Gaddafi's control, other parts of the country, particularly towns in the east, have been taken over by the rebels. The violence since the unrest began Feb 14 has left, according to one estimate, 6,000 people dead and forced nearly 140,000 people to flee the country.

In the city of Misurata, clashes took place between forces loyal to Gaddafi and the pro-democracy protesters.

Gunfire could be heard at the western and southern entrances to Misurata, as Gaddafi's forces try to move into the heart of the city, DPA reported.

Misurata residents told Al Jazeera that reports the city had been recaptured were false.

"There's absolutely no grounds for that claim whatsoever," a resident was quoted as saying.

Another resident said: "Misurata is currently under attack."

"There are ground attacks from supporters of Gaddafi and some mercenaries. I hear a lot of gunfire; I suspect there will be a lot of casualties," he said.

A British newspaper said that 8 British special forces commandos were captured by rebel forces in eastern Libya.

The paper said the soldiers were escorting a junior British diplomat through rebel-held territory who was hoping to make contact with the insurgent forces.

Libya's second largest city of Benghazi, where the protests initially started and then quickly spread across the country, was in the hands of anti-government forces. Libyan state television however said Sunday that forces loyal to Gaddafi are on their way to the city.

Meanwhile, Libya has asked the UN to suspend sactions imposed against it following a mass revolt which the Muammar Gaddafi regime has sought to suppress.

The Security Council adopted a resolution Feb 26 on "targeted measures" against the current Libyan government. The sanctions include a total arms embargo, travel bans and freezing of accounts held by the country's leadership, RIA Novosti reported.

Libyan Foreign Minister Mussa Kussa wrote to the Security Council Friday urging the lifting of the sanctions, adding that the government was "taken aback" by the measures as only "a modicum" of force had been used against protesters.






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