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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid