August 24, 2011 / 6:54 PM / 7 years ago

Rebels share firepower as snipers menace Tripoli

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - A white van pulls up to a rebel checkpoint in Tripoli and a man emerges, handing out sniper rifles and ammunition looted from Muammar Gaddafi’s compound across the street.

A Libyan rebel fighter arrives to reinforce his comrades as they make a final push to flush out pro-Gaddafi forces in Tripoli August 24, 2011. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

“Take these, take these,” the fighter tells the men at the checkpoint. “All this is for you,” he says before the van speeds away to the next checkpoint a few blocks away.

The men at the checkpoint, most of them sporting jeans and T-shirts, are from the neighborhood and joined the battle to rid the capital of pro-Gaddafi forces when rebel fighters streamed into the city two days ago.

All of the men at the checkpoint, next to a two-story residential building, say they had hidden guns from Gaddafi authorities prior to the rebel advance in anticipation of joining it.

But now they share better fire power.

“The fighters from this area share the weapons we find or get from other revolutionary brothers who support us,” explains Mohammed, one of the men working the checkpoint.

“Other rebels give us weapons since most people here have no military background,” said Hishan, a student living in the neighborhood who also joined the fight against Gaddafi.

By Wednesday at nightfall, much of the capital appeared under rebel control, but gunshots could still be heard in several areas, including near Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya complex sacked by the insurgents on Tuesday.

Shooting suddenly erupts and the men at the checkpoint rush into another building. Four rebels crouch down shouting “sniper! sniper!” while another fighter looks around the corner before firing a shot without taking aim.

Anti-aircraft fire can be heard from Bab al-Aziziya where other rebels are also trying to clear the area of snipers.

Many green flags — the Libyan state flag under Gaddafi’s rule — can still be seen across the street from the checkpoint, suggesting that the rebels have not entirely cleared the area after taking the compound.

“Yesterday it was terrible here. Gaddafi forces killed three men in this street,” said Walid, an accountant who helped man the checkpoint.

“Today the situation is better but there are still many snipers out who kill people,” he said pointing to a pool of blood on the street next to the checkpoint where one of the fighters got killed yesterday.

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