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Tuesday, 02 March 2021

Tripoli celebrates regime 'victories'

Conflicting reports emerge over whether or pro-Gaddafi forces have been able to take with force towns held by anti-regime protesters

AFP , Sunday 6 Mar 2011
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Thousands of Libyans celebrated victories over rebel forces claimed by Muammar Gaddafi's regime Sunday in the centre of Tripoli with gunfire lasting for hours and hooting of horns.

"We are shooting to celebrate because we are beating Al-Qaeda. We have won, Al-Qaeda is gone," one soldier told an AFP correspondent, apparently unaware of rebel denials that key towns had been seized.

Troops and militiamen fired their weapons into the air as some 4,000 to 5,000 people demonstrated in the capital's Green Square in favour of Gaddafi, not worrying about where the bullets might be coming down.

Green flags hung from windows and water, biscuits and portraits of Gaddafi were being handed out, while regime officials encouraged Western journalists to witness the celebrations.

Women and small children carrying pistols were among the demonstrators.

The firing had started around 6:00 am (0400 GMT) and was still going on some four hours later, as state television reported that Gaddafi's forces had recaptured key towns held by the rebels, including the oil port of Ras Lanuf, the third city of Misrata and Tobruk, near the Egyptian border.

But an AFP reporter in Ras Lanuf said the town was still firmly in rebel hands, despite a couple of air strikes by single Libyan warplanes Sunday, and rebel leaders scoffed at the other claims.

"Gaddafi says they took back Ras Lanuf, but we are still here in Ras Lanuf and not only here, but further (west)," Colonel Bashir al-Moghrabi told reporters outside the town's only hotel.

He said rebels were also still in control in Misrata as well as in Zawiyah, west of Tripoli, where fierce battles took place on Saturday.

A member of the rebel-appointed council in Tobruk, Fateh Faraj, contacted by AFP, also said claims that that town had fallen were "not true."

He said the situation was calm and that "absolutely nothing" was happening.

The rebels have vowed to march on Sirte, Gaddafi's home town about 150 kilometres (95 miles) from Bin Jawad, west of Ras Lanuf, where fighting was reported Sunday.

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