News / Africa

Tripoli: Fighting Empties the Seaside Capital

Libyan rebels gesture as they change the flag in Abu Salim district in Tripoli, Libya, August 25, 2011
Libyan rebels gesture as they change the flag in Abu Salim district in Tripoli, Libya, August 25, 2011

Multimedia

Audio
James Brooke

Driving into Tripoli is to drive into a ghost city. It looks like a set for a Hollywood apocalypse film.

Instead of a bustling seaside capital of 1.5 million people, we drove Thursday past kilometer and kilometer of shuttered metal storefronts.

We arrived to find a city stripped of people.

As shots rang in the distance, only an occasional car or pickup truck raced down glass-strewn streets.

Entering from the west, we met checkpoints every block.  Tense rebels dressed in tee-shirts, shorts and sandals manned roadblocks improvised from mattresses, even school desks.

Heavily armed, they were men from the mountains, unable to direct us to our hotel. Fifteen minutes after we left one beachfront hotel, a firefight erupted outside.

After four days of fighting in the capital, the rebels control about three-quarters of the city. But opposition ranges from single snipers to formations of entrenched Gadhafi loyalists.

Our driver took a wrong turn and we soon were traveling alongside the avocado green and mustard yellow of Colonel Gadhafi's six square-kilometer base, breached by the rebels on Tuesday.  The base's outer walls bore the signs of a heavy assault - blast marks, burn marks, and holes blown through reinforced concrete by rocket-propelled grenades.  All vehicles outside the walls were charred wrecks.

While rebels gave journalists tours of the base's underground tunnels, snipers in another part of the sprawling compound blocked rebel attacks.  All day long, rumors abounded in the city that the Gadhafi family had been cornered.  Each rumor proved false.

Outside the base, we came to a traffic roundabout. With olive green field tents pitched on the grass, it was apparently a temporary rebel base. But the rebels were out fighting.

My car circled around slowly, rubber tires crunching on broken glass and spent brass cartridge cases.  We passed dozens of smashed up and burnt out cars. Then, three large orange earthmovers blocked our exit. They had been parked sideways, their giant tires shot out, presumably by Gadhafi soldiers hoping to blunt the rebel onslaught.

In the pocket of green in the traffic circle, I spotted eight corpses swelling in the bright Mediterranean sun.  They were dressed in civilian clothes, probably rebels caught in a counterattack.

Our driver took another wrong turn. A huge heroic poster of Colonel Gadhafi suddenly loomed from a building, untouched. Within minutes, our car was surrounded by unidentified men carrying automatic weapons.

Then, a rebel pickup truck convoy rounded a corner and sped toward us. I have never seen so many armed men packed in the back of a pickup truck.

On seeing the VOA TV camera, they raised their right arms to flash V for Victory signs. They shouted "Allahu Akhbar" or God is Great.

Soon we were on our way, going the wrong way down one-way streets, running red lights, to our hotel. Fifteen minutes and fifteen checkpoints later, we entered our destination.

Rebels had laid out a new welcome mat, the Colonel Gadhafi portrait that once graced the lobby wall.

Raw video of the Libya border by Japhet Weeks

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More