The Libyan capital saw its first major gunbattle since former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi fled Tripoli more than two months ago, as his supporters traded fire with revolutionary forces after a crowd raised the ousted regime’s green flag.
Fearing more attacks, anti- Qaddafi fighters set up checkpoints manned by young, armed men across the metropolis of about 2 million people, snarling traffic. They also rounded up several suspected African mercenaries, pulling them from cars and houses.
Friday’s violence in Tripoli and fierce resistance on two other fronts set back the new rulers’ stated goals of declaring total victory and establishing democracy as Qaddafi, the ruler for nearly 42 years, remains on the run.
The capital has been relatively calm since then-rebels swept into the city in late August, but Qaddafi’s loyalists have control of parts of his hometown of Sirte and the desert enclave of Bani Walid and have fought off NATO-backed revolutionary forces besieging them for weeks. Qaddafi has tried to rally his supporters with several audio recordings issued from hiding.
The firefight in Tripoli began after Friday prayers. Witnesses said dozens of loyalists carrying the green flag appeared on a square in the Abu Salim neighborhood, which has long been a pro-Qaddafi stronghold and houses a notorious prison of the same name.
Revolutionary forces started searching every building in the area and found weapons on some of the rooftops, many hidden under water tanks, Omar said. Then pro-Qaddafi snipers opened fire and the gunbattle began as anti-Qaddafi fighters chased loyalists around the closely packed buildings.
In amateur video shown to reporters, gunfire can be seen coming from the upper floors of apartment buildings surrounding the square, prompting revolutionary forces to scramble and begin shooting from the street below.
Shouting “God is great,” hundreds of revolutionary fighters converged on the area in pickups mounted with weapons. They set up checkpoints as heavy gunfire echoed through the streets.
Tripoli military officials said 12 suspected Qaddafi supporters were detained, but played down the shooting, saying no clashes occurred and that the gunfire was primarily from revolutionary forces themselves. The local military council issued a statement saying 30 people were injured in friendly fire.
US Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also downplayed the seriousness of the fighting, calling it an “isolated, relatively small incident, by the sound of it.”
Australian scientists have raised questions over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca and University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in establishing herd immunity, calling for a pause on its widespread rollout as the country recorded one new case of the virus yesterday. Opposition to the vaccine casts a cloud over Australia’s immunization plans, with 53 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab already on hand. “The question is really whether it is able to provide herd immunity. We are playing a long game here. We don’t know how long that will take,” Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology president Stephen Turner said. Turner added
A racing pigeon has survived an extraordinary 13,000km Pacific Ocean crossing from the US to find a new home in Australia. Now authorities consider the bird a quarantine risk and plan to kill it. Kevin Celli-Bird yesterday said he discovered that the exhausted bird that arrived in his Melbourne backyard on Dec. 26 last year had disappeared from a race in the US state of Oregon on Oct. 29. Experts suspect the pigeon that Celli-Bird has named Joe — after US president-elect Joe Biden — hitched a ride on a cargo ship to cross the Pacific. Joe’s feat has attracted the attention
China has possibly committed “genocide” in its treatment of Uighurs and other minority Muslims in its western region of Xinjiang, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China said in a report on Thursday. The bipartisan commission said that new evidence had last year emerged that “crimes against humanity — and possibly genocide — are occurring” in Xinjiang. It also accused China of harassing Uighurs in the US. China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism and give people new skills, which others have called concentration camps. The UN says that
The Polish Supreme Court on Friday quashed a lower court’s green light for the extradition of a businessman to China for alleged fraud, a charge he has denied, saying that he is being targeted for supporting Falun Gong. Polish authorities took Chinese-born Swedish citizen Li Zhihui, now 53, into custody in 2019 on an international warrant issued by China for alleged non-payment in a business deal, Krzysztof Kitajgrodzki, his Polish lawyer, told reporters. Following the Supreme Court ruling, the case would return to a lower appellate court for review. Kitajgrodzki told reporters that it was still not a given that his client