Libyan government steps up security after clashes in capital

Sat Oct 15, 2011 5:12pm EDT
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By Barry Malone

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya's new government increased security in Tripoli Saturday with extra roadblocks and house-to-house searches after fighting in the capital with supporters of Muammar Gaddafi raised fears of another insurgency.

At most a few dozen pro-Gaddafi fighters appeared Friday in only a few neighborhoods of the Libyan capital that are known to be sympathetic to the deposed ruler.

But it was still the first sign of armed resistance to the National Transitional Council in Tripoli since its forces seized the city in August and ended Gaddafi's 42 years of one-man rule.

Government forces set up more roadblocks across the city, but especially in and around Abu Salim, an area of run-down apartment blocks where the clashes took place.

Pick-up trucks with heavy weapons were stationed inside the district, firing occasional volleys over the houses to make their presence felt. NTC foot soldiers searched the buildings, but there were no further clashes Saturday.

"During the war Gaddafi hid guns among the people here," said Ziyad, an NTC fighter. He said he and his comrades had found five AK-47 assault rifles hidden in a water tower on the top of one of the buildings and another two in the basement.

Residents said fighting broke out when a group of up to 50 armed men had appeared in Abu Salim, a repository of pro-Gaddafi sentiment, Friday and at least one other nearby neighborhood and chanted pro-Gaddafi slogans.

Hundreds of NTC fighters in pick-up trucks shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) raced into Abu Salim and the two sides exchanged rifle and heavy machinegun fire.   Continued...

<p>Anti-Gaddafi fighters fire a rocket during clashes with pro-Gaddafi forces at the front line in Sirte October 15, 2011. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani</p>