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Maghreb focus: A dispatch from Tripoli— Tripoli

Preface

In the days following the start of the Libyan uprising, violence has stalked the streets of Tripoli.

Libyan uprising

26 February 2011

In the days following the start of the Libyan uprising, violence has stalked the streets of Tripoli. Residents have been reluctant to leave their homes, kept indoors by the sound of gunshots and the sight of busloads of mercenaries.

In my neighbourhood in western Tripoli, Gaddafi supporters (who are actually people paid by the regime to reinforce its waning control) drove by chanting pro-Gaddafi slogans. Residents stood outside mourning the death of a young man who was shot and killed by Gaddafi’s militia for peacefully protesting a few hours earlier.

Friends in Fashloum, one of the first areas of Tripoli to rise up in support of Benghazi, report daily shootings, including young men shot and killed with heavy machine gun and anticraft weaponry. A 48-year old Libyan man living in Dubai said he could not return to his hotel in Ad-Dahra (an area in Tripoli) on the first night the protests broke out. The entire area was closed-off by militia circling in on the anti-government protesters. Residents heard machine -gun fire and saw three government land cruisers drive by. Two of the three cars were filled with African mercenaries, and all the men carried Ak-47s.

Supporters of the regime drown out voices of dissent with their loud music, honking and multiple-car caravans parading the streets. Libyan TV focuses only on the pro-government support even when the death toll of anti-government protesters reaches an estimated 3,000. Pro-regime supporters continue to fill the Green Square although their numbers are dramatically lower than the first few days.

Residents are getting text messages urging us to ignore all news channels and only watch Libyan TV: as it is the only source of “real news”. Most shops in Tripoli are closed, occasionally opening for a few hours during the day. By night-time Tripoli is a ghost town and residents hear clashes between the militia and protestors from their homes.

From the first day of the uprising, phone lines and internet connection have been virtually cut off. People are communicating with each other in the early hours of the morning when phone lines seem to operate more efficiently. Libyans ignoring the government’s request to watch state TV are glued to their televisions watching Al Jazeera, as well as BBC Arabic, AlHurra, Al Arabiya and CNN.

I believe the majority of Libyans support the uprising and realise Libya cannot move forward or forget the bloodshed and terror that has filled their days until Gaddafi is ousted. People are sad, shaken, but almost joyous, and they say they feel Gaddafi’s regime will slowly but surely collapse.

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