Deaths reported in Tripoli clashes

The violence came after anti-Gaddafi protesters took control of several towns close to Tripoli.

Deaths reported in Tripoli clashes

At least five people were killed when security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters in the Janzour district in the west of the Libyan capital on Friday, a resident said.

The resident, who did not want to be identified, also said opponents of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi were shouting anti-Gaddafi slogans in the Fashloum district, in the east of Tripoli.

"Gaddafi forces are shooting at the protesters in Janzour ... Between 5 to 7 protesters are believed to killed in Janzour demonstrations about 15 minutes ago," the resident said. His account could not immediately be verified.

The violence came after anti-Gaddafi protesters took control of several towns close to Tripoli following a rebellion centred in the city of Benghazi that removed much of eastern Libya from Gaddafi's control.

Fighting has erupted outside Tripoli in the past 24 hours, but Friday's clashes came during the first anti-Gaddafi protests in the capital since Feb. 22.

In Tripoli, hundreds of protesters at the Slatnah Mosque in the Shargia district of Janzour were chanting anti-Gaddafi slogans, such as "With our souls, with our blood we protect Benghazi!" the resident said.

Another Tripoli resident told a Reuters correspondent in Benghazi that snipers in the Libyan capital were killing people.

Ali, a businessman who declined to give his full name, told Reuters by phone that he was standing near a mosque on a road leading to the central Green Square. There was a crowd gathered in front of the mosque.

"They just started shooting people. People are being killed by snipers but I don't know how many are dead," he told Reuters.

Two Benghazi residents told Reuters that they had spoken to their friends in Tripoli by telephone after noon prayers.

The friends had said people had staged demonstrations outside mosques throughout Tripoli after prayers and intended converging on Green Square.

Mohammad, 42, in Benghazi, said the Tripoli residents believed that if the demonstrators managed to mass in Green Square "that would spell the end for the regime".

Mass demonstrations in city-centre squares foreshadowed the toppling of autocratic rulers in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year.

"Benghazi solidarity with Tripoli protesters"

Libya's rebel-held city of Benghazi has filled a political void with a coalition which is cleaning up, providing food, building defences, reassuring foreign oil firms and telling Tripoli it believes in one nation.

After noon prayers, about 6,000 Benghazi residents voiced solidarity with Tripoli protesters and ruled out splitting the country, saying they wanted Libya united.

"God make our brothers in Tripoli victorious," they chanted as reports emerged that at least five people were killed in the capital when security forces opened fire on protesters.

The scenes in the eastern city could not be more different than those in Tripoli now.

In what could become a model for other cities and towns in Libya facing chaos, professionals in Libya's ancient second city are trying to get residents' lives back to normal after forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi fled.

"The oil deals (with foreign firms) that are legal and to the benefit of the Libyan people we will keep," said Jammal bin Nour, a judge and member of the interim Feb. 17 coalition, which says it is temporarily governing Libya's second city.

If the deals were unfair, Nour said the interim coalition would reserve the right to re-negotiate them.

Weapons used in bloody clashes with pro-Gaddafi forces were collected and African mercenaries the coalition says the Libyan leader used to fire on protesters were in jail awaiting trial. The city paid a high price for the revolt with up to 250 dead.

The airport was closed because residents feared more mercenaries could be flown in and defences were being readied in case of some kind of counter-attack.

Coalition member Omar Mohammed said the army was behind the administration of Benghazi in restoring law and order.

"I have friends in the army, senior officers, who know their job is to defend the people from Gaddafi in all of this part of Libya," he told Reuters.

"They have been collecting a lot of weapons from the civilians because it is so dangerous. Some people think they need them to protect themselves. But this idea is not accepted. We are collecting the arms."

The Libyan army and police in the eastern city of Adjabiya said on al-Jazeera television on Friday they had left their barracks and joined the opposition.

"No split"

Many youths in Benghazi wanted to march to Tripoli to show to Gaddafi that the east was behind the aspirations of anti-Gaddafi factions in the west.

"There are lots of people here in Benghazi who want to go and help those in Tripoli. This is one country," said Mohammed, a 52-year-old engineer, who belongs to the coalition that groups professionals such as judges and doctors.

"Gaddafi tries to say the eastern part of Libya is tribal and always in revolt. It's not like that. This is one country and one people that will not be divided," Mohammed told Reuters.

Nour reinforced this message.

"I am sure after we succeed and get the victory we dream of, all people in Tripoli will support the same targets. They fight for the unity of the state. That is the most important principle for us," he said, adding: "We are waiting to connect with them and make agreement to build our country."

Benghazi, often seen as a rival to the capital, said Friday would be a day for solidarity with Tripoli.

"Our hearts are with you heroes of Tripoli" and "We will not forget you," said banners outside the court house that is the coalition nerve-centre. Outside strung from lamp-posts were effigies of Gaddafi and one of his sons.

The crowd was jubilant and cars honked their horns with passengers flashing V-for-victory in celebration.

Nour spoke of the coalition's aspirations and hopes.

"Our wealth must be the people's wealth, we want better schools, hospitals, to improve standards of living. Education is the power of the people. The previous system -- we can call it that now -- he controlled everything for personal purposes."

Nour also referred to the importance of honouring oil deals.

"If the deals are good, we will support them, if not we have the right to negotiate and translate the will of the people in the street, who want democracy and are asking 'where is our money?' We have heard Gaddafi has 130 billion dollars just in America. Why do those in America and England keep silent?"

A special anti-corruption unit would be set up to go after illegal business deals, he said.

Many of Libya's key oil producing areas and terminals are located in the east of the OPEC member state, large parts of which are under the control of rebels seeking to oust Gaddafi who has lost swathes of his country to the revolt.

Production at Libya's eastern al-Amal oil field, one of the OPEC producer's four largest, has not been disrupted by the bloody uprising, an official at the field told Reuters.

"No destruction of oil wells"

"There is no destruction of oil wells, they are ours. No way. If any destruction of the oil facilities happens, it will be Gaddafi doing it," Mohammed said.

"Nearly all the oilfields in Libya east of Ras Lanuf are now controlled by the people and the government has no control in this area," said Abdessalam Najib, a petroleum engineer at the Libyan company Agico and member of the Feb. 17 coalition.

"The people at the fields and those transporting it (oil) to terminals are still working, but (work has been) shut down by, let us say, 75 percent. I work in oilfields and I was told this by someone at a very big oil company in Brega." Marsa El Brega is an oil port in eastern Libya, south of Benghazi.

Many stores in Benghazi were shuttered due to recent violence, but pharmacies, groceries and other stores that were open appeared to be well-stocked. At least one bank was open.

In the street, some youths with the words "organising committee" emblazoned on their tops directed traffic.

One committee communicates with the army, one talks to the police, and one with the media, for instance. Others are in charge of providing food and ensuring security.

After a week of violence in which it threw off government control, this city of about 700,000 is being run by these committees of citizens as the dust of rebellion settles. In the east of Libya, many soldiers have withdrawn from active service.

Mohammed spoke of a sense of solidarity in Benghazi. Three days ago an order came to cut the power in the city but staff at power stations refused.

Agencies

 

Last Mod: 25 Şubat 2011, 18:15
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