Libyan capital rocked by blasts and gunfire

Al Jazeera reports:

Sustained automatic gun fire and a series of explosions have rung out in Tripoli, reports in the Libyan capital said.

Blasts and gunfire rocked Tripoli after the break of the dawn-to-dusk fast of Ramadan on Saturday and witnesses reported fighting in the eastern neighbourhoods of Souq al-Jomaa, Arada and Tajoura.

A government spokesman had earlier said an attack on Tripoli by rebels seeking to depose Muammar Gaddafi had been “dealt with”.

“Sure, there were some armed militants who escaped into some neighborhoods and there were some scuffles, but we dealt with it within a half hour and it is now calm,” Moussa Ibrahim said.

“The situation is under control,” Ibrahim said on television, adding that pro-regime volunteers had repelled insurgents’ attacks in several neighbourhoods.

Ibrahim dismissed mounting speculation that the regime was on the brink as a “media attack” but more gunfire was heard after he spoke on television.

In a live audio broadcast over state television early on Sunday, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi congratulated his supporters for repelling an attack by rebel “rats” in the capital Tripoli.

Gaddafi accused French President Nicolas Sarkozy of trying to steal the country’s oil and said that the rebels were “bent on the destruction of the Libyan people.”

Gunbattles and mortar rounds were heard clearly at the hotel where foreign correspondents stay in the capital.

Explosions also sounded in the same area as NATO aircraft carried out heavy bombing runs after nightfall.A senior official in the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) said on Sunday that Tripoli operation was coordinated between opponents of Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli and the rebels.

“The zero hour has started. The rebels in Tripoli have risen up,” said Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice-chairman of the NTC, based in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

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