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Libya rebels 'begin Tripoli attack'

Explosions and heavy gunfire were reported in the Libyan capital Tripoli as rebel forces claimed they had launched an offensive against Muammar Gaddafi's forces in co-ordination with Nato.

Gun battles and mortar rounds were heard clearly at the hotel where foreign correspondents stay in the capital. Explosions also sounded in the same area as Nato aircraft carried out heavy bombing runs after nightfall.

The fighting erupted just hours after the opposition captured the key city of Zawiya nearby.

Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the head of the rebel leadership council, told the Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera: "We planned this operation with Nato, our Arab associates and our rebel fighters in Tripoli with commanders in Benghazi."

A couple of hours after the rebels said they had attacked Tripoli, state television ran what appeared to be a live audio message by Gaddafi.

He did not appear on television but sounded like he was calling the message in on a poor phone line which crackled at times. He announced the time and date twice to prove that he was speaking live.

Gaddafi condemned the rebels as traitors and "vermin" who are tearing Libya apart and said they were being chased from city to city - a mirror image of reality.

"Libyans wanted to enjoy a peaceful Ramadan," he said. "Instead they have been made into refugees. What are we? Palestinians?"

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim appeared on Libyan television to deny there was an uprising in Tripoli. But he acknowledged that there was some kind of unusual activity.

"Sure there were some armed militants who escaped into some neighbourhoods and there were some scuffles, but we dealt with it within a half hour and it is now calm," he said.

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