Tripoli residents cheered to the sound of explosions as Nato continued to strike and destroy military installations in the Libyan capital.
“Nato strikes are a beam of light in this dark alley that we’ve been in for nearly four months,” a Libyan man from Misurata, to the East of Tripoli, told The Times.
At around noon on Sunday, American F16 aircraft launched an attack on Tripoli. It was uncommon for Nato to attack at this time, because usually its aircraft strike during the night, witnesses said.
“I can guarantee, however, that whenever Nato attacks, Tripoli celebrates,” the man said.
Witnesses insisted with the newspaper that Nato attacks were accurate and people on the ground did not report any civilian casualties. They said most of the bodies shown on the Libyan state TV claiming to be Nato victims were actually victims of the Gaddafi forces.
Last week, Nato extended its mission in Libya by 90 days.
In the meantime, Nato confirmed that UK Apache attack helicopters were used in Libya for the first time when they destroyed two military installations, a radar site and an armed checkpoint near Brega.
French Gazelle helicopters were also reported to have taken part in simultaneous attacks on different targets for the first time.
“The introduction of helicopter strikes is positive because these can fly low and target specific cars, and not just fields and schools which Gaddafi is using as storage for weapons,” the Libyan man said.
Communication between Libyans in the North African country and their family members abroad is at times impossible. People who spoke to The Times said telephone lines are monitored continuously by Col Gaddafi’s men.
A young man in contact with family and friends in Tripoli said the city “is literally boiling. Protests have erupted in Soug Aljumaa and Fashloom and people seem to have got more confident despite the brutal crack downs”.
The man, who has had two of his best friends arrested in Tripoli told The Times that most of the corpses shown on TV are bodies of people that were arrested in Tripoli.
“Thousands of people have been arrested. They’re being arrested on a daily basis and kept in schools, factories and farms that have been converted into some sort of detention and interrogation centres.
“When one of my arrested friend’s brother was released, he said that he had met his brother, my friend, at the detention centre and it was obvious that he had been tortured badly,” he added.
A Libyan woman living in Malta does not reveal her identity when she is on the phone with her parents from Az Zawiyah.
“I just tell them we are doing fine and wait for an update from their end. They know it is me on the phone so I do not risk putting their lives in danger,” she said. “They’re doing all right but they don’t dare venture out of their dens, for fear of being shot down by Gaddafi’s men who are taking down any moving object,” she adds.
A young man from Tripoli, currently in London, confirmed that Nato strikes cheer up the majority of Tripoli residents. A family member told him that when Nato attacks locations in the the besieged capital city, one can hear residents cheer and whistle as government targets are hit.
Last week, a burial procession of an activist killed by Gaddafi forces was transformed into a mass anti-regime protest in Sug al-Jumaa, Tripoli’s largest district.
“In Tripoli, which hardly ever sleeps, the majority of people have not been to work, while shops have remained closed,” he said.
Witnesses on the ground told The Times that petrol in Tripoli is scarce and people queue up for more than three days to fill their vehicle tank.
Product prices are very high and people cannot afford basic necessities. Ad Dafniya, a stretch of land made up of fields between Tripoli and Misurata, is acting as the opposition’s frontline.
Col Gaddafi has tried to attack Ad Dafniya, 60 kilometres to the west of Misurata. It lies strongly in the hold of “freedom fighters”, as they call themselves, who are advancing gradually on the colonel’s den “with the help of the international community”.
In the meantime, reports on the social media have suggested that Col Gaddafi is fleeing from one hospital to another, and has even sought refuge in churches. These reports have not been verified.
Members from the opposition told this newspaper that only Col Gaddafi’s closest relatives know his location, because the “dictator does not trust his men anymore”.
Several witnesses in Libya said they have seen about 150 armoured cars in the Gaddafi camp of Mitiga which had the Independence flag painted on them. They said it seemed the regime was preparing for “the battle of Tripoli” where it would use these cars to attack civilians and blame it on the rebels like they did in similar cases in Brega and Ras Lanouf.
Rebels in Zintan are now 70 kilometers away from the capital getting ready for the much-awaited “battle for Tripoli”.
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