ZAWIYAH, Libya (Reuters) - Armed men opposed to the rule of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi were in control of the city of Zawiyah, 50 km (30 miles) west of the capital Tripoli, on Sunday.
The red, green and black flag of Libya’s anti-Gaddafi rebellion was flying from a building in the town center and several hundred people was chanting “This is our revolution.”
A group of foreign journalists were driven to Zawiyah by Libyan authorities to show that forces loyal to Gaddafi still held the town. But once there, it was evident that the rebels were in control.
A doctor at a makeshift clinic in the town mosque said 24 people had been killed in fighting with government loyalists over the past three days, and a small park next to the main square had been turned into a burial ground.
“We are finished with Gaddafi. He will fall soon. He has to go now. We are losing patience,” one man, called Sabri, said in the center of Zawiyah.
Residents gave accounts of fierce fighting for control of the town against pro-Gaddafi paramilitaries who were armed with heavy weapons.
“Gaddafi is crazy. His people shot at us using rocket-propelled grenades,” said one man, who gave his name as Mustafa.
Another man, called Chawki, said: “We need justice. People are being killed. Gaddafi’s people shot my nephew.”
“We need help from outside. We will never use force or harm anyone. We just want our civil rights...He (Gaddafi) has to go. There is no other way.”
The town bore the marks of heavy fighting, with buildings in the center burned and pockmarked with bullet holes, and burned-out vehicles left in the streets.
Local people said they had captured 11 pro-Gaddafi fighters, unhurt, and showed reporters two of them who were being held in a cell in the town’s main mosque.
“I have been here for three days,” said Youssef Mustafa, a doctor. “Twenty-four people have been shot dead by Gaddafi people using heavy guns. Many more are wounded.”
“We need more medicine, more food and more doctors. There are a lot of good doctors in Libya but they cannot get into Zawiyah.”