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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake 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.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid