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Snipers interrupt the Libya's celebrations as battle rages on

By Kim Sengupta

Machine-gun fire cut across the patriotic songs belting out of the ghetto-blaster, long raking bursts sending the rebel fighters scrambling for cover.

One, little more than a boy, fell to the ground, blood streaming from his face as he desperately held out his hands for two friends to drag him away.

The attack in the Gargaresh district was one of many skirmishes, short and brutal exchanges, in Tripoli on the day Muammar Gaddafi finally fell from power. The revolutionaries had been greeted with celebration by many residents as they had come into the Libyan capital during the night.

Green Square, the heart of the city, had for a while been the scene of a spontaneous party. But that had broken up amid sniper attacks. The morning was tense beneath the bonhomie and by the afternoon a rolling battle was unfolding in the centre of the city.

Standing on the terrace of the Corinthia, a five-star hotel that was used by the regime for guests, I could see gunmen on the 12th floor of a building firing down towards the port where the opposition fighters had set up a checkpoint.

The response came as mortars and grenades, some landing uncomfortably close.

Plumes of smoke rose over the Bab al-Aziziya, Colonel Gaddafi's base, where, ran one rumour, he may be secreted in a bunker. The complex had been under disorganised attack from the rebels from the early hours.

"Judgment Day for Gaddafi" said a banner being waved.

News started arriving in excited shouts of how three of the dictator's sons, Saif al-Islam, Saadi and Mohammed, had been captured. The Prime Minister, Al Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi, was under siege at a hotel in the Tunisian city of Djerba while trying to escape, another bulletin ran.

"Gaddafi called us rats, but he is the one hiding in a hole," shouted Osama Mohammed Sattar, a leader of the Shabab youth volunteers, letting off a volley of shots from his Kalashnikov.

The regime's spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, had claimed there "would be a massacre, hundreds would be murdered" when the rebels took over Tripoli.

The charge, made by a regime which had carried out mass slaughter, has been unfounded so far. But there have been individual acts of retribution, arbitrary and vicious, on helpless victims.

At the Maghrabi Arab Village, built for expatriates working in the petroleum industry, two young men squatted on the ground, terrified, their hands tied behind their backs, guns to their heads. I was told by one of the rebels that they were from Chad.

Both had confessed to being snipers working for Gaddafi. Did they really admit to that?

The fighter, looking uncomfortable, insisted it was true. One started to say they just worked at the place. He was kicked in the chest by a fat man in British Army fatigues who said he was a commander and ordered me to leave.

Belfast Telegraph

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