Tripoli on edge ahead of prayers


    4 March 2011
    Last updated at 04:13 ET

    Rebel soldiers

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    Watch: The rebels intend to move on as soon as they can

    Embattled Libyan ruler Col Muammar Gaddafi’s stronghold in the capital Tripoli is tense ahead of possible protests later.

    Opponents of his government have reportedly been calling for rallies in the city after Friday prayers.

    Fresh air strikes have been launched on rebel-held territory in the east of the country.

    The revolt, which broke out in mid-February to end Col Gaddafi’s 41-year rule, has shown signs of stalemate.


    There are unconfirmed reports overnight of mosques having been closed, arrests and the internet being shut down.

    Protests last week after Friday prayers in several districts of the city were fired on by Gaddafi supporters, witnesses of the shootings have said.

    Barack Obama

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    Watch: Obama says Gaddafi must leave

    Security forces have reportedly carried out a wave of detentions, killings and disappearances in the city in recent days.

    A Libyan warplane bombed the rebel-held coastal town of Ajdabiya on Friday, narrowly missing a munitions dump.

    Gaddafi forces also carried out the second air raid in as many days on the key rebel-held port of Brega, home to the country’s second largest oil facility, Al Arabiya news network reported.

    On Thursday, rebels in Libya’s second city of Benghazi said they would not negotiate unless Col Muammar Gaddafi resigned and went into exile.

    The National Libyan Council – led by former Libyan Interior Minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who went over to the opposition last month – also called for foreign intervention.

    The rebels – a mixture of citizen militias and army defectors armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades – have been securing Brega in anticipation of a fresh onslaught by Gaddafi loyalists.

    Several hundred members of the Tuareg community from Mali have joined Col Gaddafi as mercenaries, a senior official from that North African nation told the BBC.

    Gaddafi loyalists withdrew west to another oil port, Ras Lanouf, following their defeat in a battle on Wednesday.

    The rebels have held funerals for some of the 14 fighters killed in that clash.

    The major western rebel-held cities of Zawiya and Misrata have also repelled attacks by Gaddafi loyalists.

    Meanwhile, during a White House news conference on Thursday, US President Barack Obama repeatedly said Col Gaddafi should quit.

    “Going forward, we will continue to send a clear message: the violence must stop,” he said. “Muammar Gaddafi has lost legitimacy to lead and he must leave.”

    Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, said Col Gaddafi and his inner circle were under its spotlight.

    The court has identified at least nine incidents that could constitute crimes against humanity, including the alleged killing of 257 people in Benghazi last month.

    The crisis has spawned a humanitarian crisis, with some 200,000 migrant workers having fled Libya, into Egypt, Tunisia and Niger, according to the International Organization for Migration.



    Rebels braced for counter-attack

    Jon Leyne reports from the rebel-held city of Benghazi, where people have been celebrating an end to Colonel Gaddafi’s rule in the east of the country. But they’re beginning to realise the fight for control of the whole country is a long way from over.

    Western Libya

    Rebels hold town in Sahara

    Ian Pannell has been to an area of Libya’s Sahara desert, now in the hands of rebels. He finds the threat that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s forces could return ever present and the rebels’ hold on their new territory precarious.


    Libya’s front line

    John Simpson in Aqayla in central Libya, which he says it is “not like the normal front line of a war zone”.

    Ras Ajdir

    Rescue mission starts

    Ben Brown on the Libyan-Tunisian border, where an international effort has begun to rescue thousands of stranded people.

    Navigate the map to see the latest reports from correspondents across the region as the crisis unfolds.

    Libya, military bases map

    The Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, is still in control in the capital, Tripoli. Protests in the city have centred on Green Square but various key buildings, like the headquarters of state TV and the People’s Hall, have been attacked and damaged. Reports suggested Colonel Gaddafi had fled abroad, but he has since appeared on television from his compound in Bab al-Azizia, to make a defiant speech condemning the protests.

    Libya, military bases map

    The Libyan Army is a weak force of little more than 40,000, poorly armed and poorly trained. Keeping the army weak is part of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s long-term strategy to eliminate the risk of a military coup, which is how he himself came to power in 1969. The defection of some elements of the army to the protesters in Benghazi is unlikely to trouble the colonel. His security chiefs have not hesitated to call in air strikes on their barracks in the rebellious east of the country.

    Libya, oil

    Libya produces 2.1% of the world’s oil. Since the protests began, production has dropped, although Saudi Arabia has promised to make up any shortfall. The high revenue it receives from oil means Libyans have one of the highest GDPs per capita in Africa. Sirte basin is responsible for most of Libya’s oil output. It contains about 80% of the country’s proven oil reserves, which amount to 44 billion barrels, the largest in Africa.

    Libya, population

    Most of Libya’s 6.5m poplation is concentrated along the coast and around the country’s oilfields. Population density is about 50 persons per square kilometre along the coast. Inland, where much of the country is covered by inhospitable desert, the population density falls to less than one person per square kilometre.

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    Tripoli on edge ahead of prayers