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Khadafy loyalists, foes exchange fire in Tripoli

By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post / October 15, 2011

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MISURATA, Libya - A gun battle broke out yesterday between supporters and opponents of ousted leader Moammar Khadafy in some of the worst political violence in the Libyan capital since his government was toppled two months ago.

Truckloads of revolutionary gunmen clutching automatic rifles roared off to the Tripoli neighborhood of Abu Salim after reports emerged of a group of armed people there waving the green flag of Khadafy’s government.

Although authorities said the clash proved relatively minor, it unnerved residents still fearful of Khadafy, whose repressive rule lasted 42 years and who remains at large. The sound of semiautomatic fire echoed across the city, and reports spread of gunfights in other areas of the city.

Officials and witnesses offered varying versions of how the conflict began. Colonel Ahmed Barati, head of the country’s military police, said authorities had received intelligence on Thursday of a planned attack by Khadafy loyalists in Abu Salim, one of the last neighborhoods to fall to the rebels in August. He said a group of Khadafy supporters was waving green flags and firing weapons when forces supporting the new government arrived. The Associated Press quoted a witness who gave a somewhat different version, saying snipers opened fire on revolutionary forces after they arrived at the protest, triggering the battle. The anti-Khadafy forces discovered weapons on the rooftops of buildings on the street, the news service said.

Barati said six Khadafy loyalists had been arrested. He had no reports of casualties. But Reuters news service said a revolutionary soldier plunged a knife into the back of one man dragged out of an apartment building in Abu Salim, who had been captured holding a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

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