Africa

Eyewitness: 'Tripoli is under siege'

Anti-Gaddafi graffiti is sprayed on a billboard that used to carry portraits of the Libyan leader in front of Tripoli's Friday market police station which was allegedly attacked by demonstrators on 21 February 2001
Image caption There are signs of resistance even in Col Gaddafi's stronghold, the capital Tripoli

Libyan's Col Muammar Gaddafi is battling to shore up control of the capital city Tripoli and western areas.

A resident in the capital told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme about how life in the city has been turned upside down:

"There are mixed emotions around the city - there's tension; there's hope; there's confusion.

The local news is airing out how things are back to normal in the city, that people are going back to work and institutions are open, but on the streets it's to the contrary of that.

People are still in their homes; people have not resumed normal life. Everybody's just watching the news.

Petrol is rationed, same as food - most outlets are shut. It's hard to find a restaurant or eatery that's operating fully.

'Washing away blood'

On Monday and Tuesday there seemed to be a lot of rogue civilians holding AK-47s - they weren't the military or police - guarding roundabouts and streets.

They were in pick-up trucks and they went around spraying the city with bullets.

Currently their presence is reduced, but from what we can see from driving around the city - and I have been around the city from end to end - all the armed guarding is focused on every exit or entrance to the city.

If you do manage to cross out of the city, there is no way to get back in.

The city is under siege.

Since those clashes there has been no more violence - apart from gunfire in the air.

They're attempting to cleanse the appearance of the city.

I witnessed myself bodies after the terror that happened 48 hours ago. They were chucked into pick-up trucks and the scene cleaned within minutes - shells picked up, water power-sprayed to wash away the blood.

Early on the morning of the 23rd there were witnessed drive-by shootings at a local bakery and as soon as these shootings happened, the bodies were picked up.

We spoke to doctors who said that there had been up to 1,000 admissions of dead bodies or those with critical injuries.

But families have been refusing to pick up their deceased because they are made to sign papers declaring that they were shot by the opposition to the regime.

There haven't been any funerals going on.

Free phone credit

The internet is working with very very low bandwidth - some applications you can't upload - to get into certain sites you need to use different proxies but people get around that.

And there's free phone credit being given out to people.

That's helping spread the fear because people are talking to each other, people are scared and the panic is spreading by phone.

Tripoli seems to be isolated from the things ongoing in the rest of the country.

On the radio they're saying anybody who hands in weapons will get full immunity from prosecution.

But nobody here buys Gaddafi's arguments [that young people were being doped with drugs and alcohol to take part in the unrest].

Libyans are reading into his messages because they are just pure threats meaning that he will wipe us out - that he will not leave without destruction.

It's a very tactical way of spreading propaganda and fear.

We're not talking about drug-users - this is a people's movement - people have spoken and voiced themselves.

We are the protesters; we are the ones trying to fight for our rights, for our freedom."

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