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Heavy Gunfire Rocks Tripoli As Libyan Rebels Advance

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LIBYA REBELS
Libyan rebels celebrate as they gain positions against regime forces in the city of Zawiya, some 40 kms west of Tripoli, on August 19, 2011. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images) | Getty

TRIPOLI, Libya -- Heavy gunfire and explosions rattled the Libyan capital Saturday after rebels seized control of a major coastal city just west of Tripoli. Rebel commanders said the firing in the capital signaled the start of an attack on Moammar Gadhafi's main stronghold.

Gun battles and rounds of mortar shelling were heard clearly at the hotel where foreign correspondents stay in the capital. Explosions were heard in the area as NATO aircraft carried out heavy bombing runs after nightfall.

Col. Fadlallah Haroun, a rebel military commander in their stronghold of Benghazi said this marks the beginning of Operation Mermaid - a nickname for the capital city - an assault on Tripoli coordinated with NATO.

Haroun told The Associated Press that weapons were assembled and sent by tugboats to Tripoli on Friday night.

"The fighters in Tripoli are rising up in two places at the moment - some are in the Tajoura neighborhood and the other is near the Matiga (international) airport," he told the Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera.

Earlier Saturday, the government organized a trip for reporters to the airport to show them it was still in government hands.

The head of the National Transitional Council said the date of August 20 was chosen to coordinate with the ancient Muslim Battle of Badr, when Muslims conquered the holy city of Mecca in A.D. 624.

"We planned this operation with NATO, our Arab associates and our rebel fighters in Tripoli and commanders in Benghazi," he said.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim appeared on Libyan television to deny that there was an uprising in Tripoli.

"Sure, there were some armed militants who escaped into some neighborhoods and there were some scuffles, but we dealt with it within a half hour and it is now calm," he said.

Rebels fighting to oust Gadhafi have scored a number of victories in the six-month civil war, only to see towns fall out of their hands. Now the momentum appears to have firmly swung in the opposition's favor after months of near-deadlock.

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Al Jazeera has exclusive video of Libyan rebels ambushing Gaddafi loyalists at a checkpoint. According to the news outlet, "this Al Jazeera Exclusive footage gives an inside view of the struggle as the fighters push towards Sirte, the last stronghold of Gaddafi."

Video below (via Al Jazeera):

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CNN reports:

Muneer Masoud Own, 33, who made a living doing manual labor, said forces loyal to longtime Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi slaughtered nearly 150 prisoners as rebels closed in on Tripoli last week.

Charred bodies littered the ground around a warehouse -- roughly 30 feet by 45 feet -- where the detainees were kept. A volunteer who helped remove them, Bashir Own, estimated that he had seen about 150 bodies. He is not related to Muneer Own, who said he barely escaped an ordeal that started about a month ago.

Full story here.

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Dozens of Libyans perform the last late afternoon prayer of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at Freedom Square in the eastern Libyan port city of Benghazi on August 29, 2011.

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Libya rebels claim to have "almost certain information" that Gaddafi's intelligence chief was killed.

@ Reuters : FLASH: Libya rebels have "almost certain information" that Gaddafi intelligence chief killed on Sat. -Spokesman tells al-Arabiya TV

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Al Jazeera's James Bays filed a dazzling report from Libya on the situation of African migrants in the embattled country. Migrants claim to be assaulted and are locked up in prisons until rebel fighters made sure they did not work as mercenaries for the Gaddafi regime.

Watch Bays' report here:

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The rebel commander in Tripoli Al Mahdi Al Haraqi told Reuters that he had confirmation that Khamis Gaddafi has been killed in a clash near Ben Walid.

Reuters writes:

He was taken to a hospital but died of his wounds and was buried in the area, Al-Haragi said, without giving the timing. No independent confirmation of the death was available.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the United States could not yet independently confirm Khamis' death but said similar information was being received in Washington from "reliable sources."

Rebels claimed twice before Khamis Gaddafi was killed.

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Libya's National Transitional Council reacted strongly on the message that relatives of Gaddafi would have arrived in Algeria, Reuters reports.

A spokesperson for the NTC said it considers sheltering members of Gaddafi's family an act of aggression.

"We have promised to provide a just trial to all those criminals and therefore we consider this an act of aggression," spokesman Mahmoud Shamman told Reuters.

"We are warning anybody not to shelter Gaddafi and his sons. We are going after them in any place to find them and arrest them," he said.

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A rebel commander in Tripoli claims Gaddafi's son Khamis has been killed in clashes in southern Libya.

Khamis was claimed killed twice before.

@ Reuters : FLASH: Gaddafi's son Khamis killed in clashes in southern Libya -Rebel commander in Tripoli

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AFP reports Italian energy company ENI reached an agreement with the Libyan National Transitional Council to take up gas supplies to Italy.

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Libyan rebels they seek the extradition of Gaddafi's family members who fled to Algeria.

@ Reuters : FLASH: Libya rebels say will seek extradition of Gaddafi family from Algeria

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Rebel commanders say Khamis Gaddafi, one of Colonel Gaddafi's most feared sons, has been killed in an air strike south of Tripoli.

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Algeria confirms two of Gaddafi's sons, his daughter Aicha and his wife are in the country.

@ Reuters : FLASH: Algeria confirms two of Gaddafi's sons, wife and daughter are in the country - Al-Jazeera TV

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Reuters reports Khamis Gaddafi, the Colonel's infamous ... son, may be next to be places on the ICC's most wanted list. The International Criminal Court earlier approved warrants for Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam.

ICC prosecutor Luis-Moreno Ocampo told Reuters in an interview that "Khamis should also be prosecuted because Khamis was the commander of the brigade that was more active on some of the crimes."

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Official reportedly confirm three of Gaddafi's sons, his daughter and wife have arrived in Algeria.

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From the Associated Press:

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The chairman of the African Union says Libyan rebels may be indiscriminately killing black people in Libya because they have confused innocent migrant workers with mercenaries.

Chairman Jean Ping told reporters Monday that this is one of the reasons the AU is refusing to recognize the National Transitional Council as the country's interim government.

He said "We need clarification because the NTC seems to confuse black people with mercenaries .... They are killing normal workers."

Libya's rebel National Transitional Council appears to have secured Libya's capital after a week of fierce fighting with loyalists to Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

He said there was no doubt the council now controlled the capital city and called on both sides to "stop the killing."

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Libyan rebels captured Gaddafi's personal 'Afriqiyah Airbus' in Tripoli.

Libyan rebels leave Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's 'Afriqiyah One' Airbus A340 plane at Tripoli airport on August 29, 2011.

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The tribe of Abdel Fattah Younes said it will take justice into their own hands if rebel leaders do not identify the commander's killers, Reuters reports. "After Eid, that is the final deadline," Tarek, one of Younes' sons said in an interview with Reuters.

Abdel Fattah Younes was killed on July 28 after he was summoned by rebel leaders for questioning. Libyan authorities identified two people who allegedly carried out the assassination, but head of the NTC Mustafa Abdel Jalil had told reporters on Wednesday the suspected killers would be arrested "when the higher interests of this revolution will not be damaged."

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Al Jazeera reporters in Tripoli said rebels have surrounded Gaddafi's hometown Sirte. The main push in the battle for Sirte is expected to come from the east, the channel reports.

Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel Hamid reported from the eastern front near Sirte that rebels are holding off attacks, as they want to give tribal leaders in the city time to negotiations.

Andrew Simons, on the western front near the city, reported small fights between rebels and Gaddafi loyalists.

On Monday, NATO intensified airstrikes on Sirte.

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The rebel flag waving over the Libyan embassy in Moscow.

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A leaked United Nations report proposes elections in Libya within nine months, Al Jazeera reports. The UN would be looking to send a small contingent of 'Blue Barrets' to the country, if requested by the Libyan authorities and authorized by the Security Council.

"If requested by the Libyans and authorized by the Council, the UN could contribute to confidence-building and to the implementation of agreed military tasks, through unarmed UN military observer (UNMOs)," Al Jazeera quotes the document.

Read more on Al Jazeera.

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France reopened its embassy in Libya, a spokesperson for the French foreign ministry said. France had closed the embassy six months ago.

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Libyan rebels asked NATO to keep up pressure on the Gaddafi regime. The Associated Press reports NTC head Mustafa Abdul Jalil told a NATO delegation that former regime supporters who are now in hiding could still cause trouble.

"Gaddafi is still capable is doing something awful in the last moments," Abdul-Jalil said.

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Tyler Hicks, photographer for the New York Times, found what seems to be a photo album from the Gaddafi family.

Watch the album on the NYTimes Lens Blog Website

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Internet has returned in many areas in Tripoli.

@ feb17voices : LPC #Tripoli: Internet has returned in many areas of the city. #Libya

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CNN correspondent in Libya Nic Robertson reports the Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Basset al Megrahi, is comatose and nearing death.

Read Robertson's full report on the CNN website.

The National Transitional Council announced earlier it will not extradite the Libyan.

CNN's report contradicts statements made earlier by a cancer specialist, who said Abdel Basset al Megrahi was in good health and could live for years.

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Libya's National Transitional Council will not extradite the Lockerbie bomber

@ Reuters : Minister in National Transitional Council says Libya will not extradite Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi

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An Iranian newspaper wrote on Sunday that foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi claimed Iran "discreetly" provided humanitarian aid to rebels in Libya.

According to AFP the minister told the newspaper that Iran was "in touch with many of the rebel groups in Libya before the fall of (Moamer) Gaddafi, and discreetly dispatched three or four food and medical consignments to Benghazi."

The minister also said the head of the NTC sent a letter to Teheran, thanking Iranian president Ahmedinejad for his help.

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AFP reports Libyan rebels have freed more than 10,000 prisoners since they captured Tripoli. 50,000 prisoners would still be missing.

Ahmed Omar Bani, a spokesperson for the rebels, told reporters during a press conference that between 57,000 and 60,000 people have been arrested over the past months.

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Libyan rebels declined an offer by Muammar Gaddafi to negotiate, saying they do not recognize him and are looking for Gaddafi as a criminal.

On Saturday, a spokesman for Gaddafi had offered the rebels by phone to start talks lead by Gaddafi's son Saadi.

Mahmoud Shamman, the NTC's information minister said in a news conference:

"I would like to state very clearly, we don't recognize them. We are looking at them as criminals. We are going to arrest them very soon .. Talking about negotiations is a daydream for what remains of the dictatorship."

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Al Jazeera English has more on the latest overtures from the Gaddafi camp:

Moussa Ibrahim, the spokesperson for Muammar Gaddafi, has reportedly told the Associated Press news agency that the Libyan leader is ready to negotiate with the rebels to form a transitional government.

Ibrahim called AP headquarters in New York late on Saturday, and told them he was calling from Tripoli, the Libyan capital, and that Gaddafi was still in Libya.

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Around the Web

Libya rebels tighten grip west of Tripoli - Yahoo! News

Tripoli facing three-sided advance by Libyan rebels | World news ...

Video: Libya rebels control Zawiyah - Telegraph

Libyan rebels prepare push towards Tripoli - FT.com

Libyan Rebels Try to Impose Control - TIME

Advancing rebels in western Libya face snipers, shelling - CNN.com

Libya rebels tighten grip west of Tripoli | Reuters