Libya conflict: Rebels vow to resolve Tripoli shortages

Mahmoud Shammam outlines measures to tackle the shortages in Tripoli

Libyan rebel leaders have announced measures to tackle shortages of water, fuel and medicines in Tripoli which the UN says are threatening lives.

Mahmoud Shammam of the National Transitional Council (NTC) promised diesel fuel to restore electricity and water supplies would arrive on Sunday.

But he warned residents not to expect miracles after such a swift victory against Col Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

Meanwhile, at least 50 bodies have been found in a warehouse south of Tripoli.

Residents of the district of Salah al-Din said they were civilians who had been executed on Tuesday by members of a brigade commanded by Col Gaddafi's son, Khamis, before they abandoned a nearby military base.

"We heard gunfire before breaking the [Ramadan] fast and people shouting for help, but there were snipers outside and nobody could get close. These men were killed by Kalashknikovs and hand grenades, and then they were burned," Dr Salim Rajub told the AFP news agency.

On Friday, more than 200 decomposing bodies were found at an abandoned hospital in the capital's Abu Salim district. Doctors and nurses fled because of the fighting and many injured patients were left to die.

'Working around the clock'

In Tripoli, the conflict is now beginning to move to a new phase.

The BBC's Wyre Davies says the battle for the city is almost over, and for many that is cause for celebration as victorious rebel fighters arrive from the east, west and south.

At the scene

Most of the fighting in the capital appears to be over. The bigger problem here now is a humanitarian one.

This is a city of two million people with no effective political direction or leadership. The real political leadership and the people who need to take control of the situation are not here. Practically what that means is that when it comes to resources like water, there is none, and there's hardly any electricity. There was a blackout across Tripoli last night and only those hotels or buildings with generators had any power.

There's also a huge problem of public health - with no water or proper sanitation, there's a very difficult issue developing in many parts of the city.

The biggest crisis now is a shortage of basic goods, our correspondent adds.

There is no running water and hardly any electricity in a city of two million people. The supply of water, which usually comes from aquifers in the desert, has been disrupted by the fighting and restoring it will take some time.

At the NTC's first news conference in the capital since the uprising began six months ago, Mr Shammam said fuel was being distributed, and that water and medical supplies would be delivered by sea from Misrata.

"We have 30,000 tonnes of gasoline. We'll start to distribute it to the public starting today. We have diesel fuel [which] will be arriving tomorrow, to support the electricity [power stations]," he said.

"Also, we are going to provide within two days the gas for cooking. And we are working hard to reactivate [the] Zawiya refinery."

"Tripoli was under the tight control of the dictatorship for 42 years. We are starting from point zero in this situation. Do not ask for miracles, but we promise to try to make this difficult period as short as we can."

Mr Shammam also called on all public, private and oil industry employees to return to work to help restore basic services to the capital.

Dr Aref Ali Nayed, operations director for the NTC's Libya Stabilisation Team, told the BBC from the Libya-Tunisia border that "multiple teams" were "working around the clock" to resolve the water shortages.

Our correspondent says that most people will tolerate such shortages for now as the majority of people are happy to see the back of the brutal Gaddafi regime, even though the colonel himself has not been captured or killed.

Men fill plastic jerry-cans with water from a public tap in Tripoli (27 August 2011) Fuel needed to restore electricity and water supplies would arrive on Sunday, rebels say

Earlier, the UK government said it was giving the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) £3m ($4.9m) to provide surgical teams to treat 5,000 wounded people, and provide food for 690,000 forced to flee their homes.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) meanwhile said it was desperate to reach sub-Saharan migrant workers caught up in the fighting.

The head of the IOM in Benghazi, Martin Jerrett, told the BBC that Africans were facing deep hostility from the population of Tripoli because they were generally viewed as "mercenaries and/or close to the regime".

He said most were isolated and had no embassy representation. A ship carrying 260 evacuees has now arrived in Benghazi.

Cut in two

On the coast east of Tripoli, the rebel advance on Col Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte is deadlocked.

Rebel fighter sits at a checkpoint at the entrance of the oil port city of Ras Lanuf (27 August 2011) The rebels remain confident, convinced that they have the momentum

The BBC's Paul Wood says there have been steady duels between the two sides, clouds of black smoke hanging over the main coastal road and the intermittent thump of shells or rockets exploding.

Nato has been carrying out multiple airstrikes to try to restore the rebels' momentum, hitting 21 targets overnight in and around Sirte, including armoured vehicles, gun emplacements, bunkers and a surface-to-air missile launcher.

In the previous 24 hours, 29 targets were hit from the air, including a command-and-control facility, Nato said.

Our correspondent says the rebels need to gain control of Sirte because without it, the country will effectively remain cut in two.

The rebels remain as confident, even jubilant, as ever, convinced that they have the momentum as they approach what may be the final big battle of this war and their revolution, he adds.

"There is intensive consultation and negotiation with the community leaders of Sirte," Mr Shammam told reporters in Tripoli.

"We can take it militarily, but we want to take it peacefully."

Asked about the fate of Col Muammar Gaddafi, who some believe may be in Sirte, Mr Shammam said the fugitive leader would be caught.

"He's running from place to place - we're going to get Gaddafi, we are following him and we're going to find him but we're not going to stop everything waiting for the capture of Gaddafi or his sons."

A senior NTC spokesman Shams al-Din Ben Ali separately told the BBC that it was possible that Col Gaddafi was still in the Tripoli area.

If he had escaped the capital, it was likely that he would head for the Algerian border, rather than Sirte, because the Algeria was the last of Libya's neighbours that might give him sanctuary, Mr Ben Ali said.

It was possible that Col Gaddafi's wife and daughter, as well as other senior regime officials, had already fled to Algeria, he added.

Algeria's foreign ministry has denied a report that a convoy of six cars under armed guard crossed its border on Friday morning.

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