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Dozens of Gaddafi supporters stage Tripoli rally

Gaddafi supporters gather in capital for a rally after the veteran leader urged help in crushing an insurrection

AFP , Wednesday 23 Feb 2011
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Tripoli's streets were mainly deserted and most shops closed Wednesday but dozens of Moamer Gaddafi supporters gathered for a rally after the veteran leader urged help in crushing an insurrection.

The capital got off to a quiet start with people queuing up in front of bakeries and cars lined up at petrol stations as usual, witnesses said.

But later in the day the city's Green Square - stronghold of Gaddafi supporters since a revolt against his regime erupted on 15 February 15 - pulsed with activity as pro-regime supporters began arriving.

A large banner declaring, "The people's power or death," was erected as dozens of cars arrived at the square honking their horns, waving green flags and portraits of the 'Guide of the Revolution.'

Men and children poured out of minibuses while some Gaddafi supporters perched on the roofs of vehicles. Two or three police cars patrolled the area while police and a few men in civilian clothes armed with Kalashnikovs were deployed at the square.

In a defiant speech on Tuesday night, Gaddafi had called on the police and army to crush the uprising which according to official Libyan figures has killed 300 people.

He also urged his supporters to rally on Wednesday and help "capture the rats," as he termed anti-regime demonstrators.

"Go out of your homes and storm them" wherever they are, he thundered, threatening to purge opponents "house by house" and "inch by inch" before dramatically declaring he would die a martyr in Libya.

In the neighbourhood of Tajura, streets were blocked by residents who used chopped down palm trees to build barricades, disregarding Gaddafi's message to remove roadblocks.

Army and police forces were absent in the main avenue of Gargares, a residential neighbourhood where on Tuesday witnesses had told AFP they saw tanks patrolling.

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