Rebels Pushing to Secure Tripoli

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. The rebels in Libya say they now control most of Tripoli, but they admit they're facing pockets of intense resistance from Gaddafi loyalists. Gunfights remain common in the city even as the rebels celebrate what appears to be the end of the Gaddafi regime. The whereabouts of the Libyan dictator himself are still unknown. One development today was the release of a group of foreign journalists trapped by loyalist gunmen in Tripoli at the Rixos Hotel. Among those journalists was the BBC's Matthew Price. After leaving the hotel he described what happened when one of the last gunmen guarding the group finally gave up.

Matthew Price: He sat down and he went and he cried, and he said, 'Now the rebels will kill me.' And I think that's the other side of this conflict, that all of the sudden I've come out into a new Tripoli, a different Tripoli. It clearly shows the scars of fighting, but it's a city in which the Gaddafi opponents last week or so would only whisper their opposition to Colonel Gaddafi to me. Now, they're out on the streets being vocal about it and the people who are now hiding are the Gaddafi supporter.

Werman: The BBC's Matthew Price speaking there after he was finally able to leave Tripoli's Rixos Hotel today. The BBC's Rana Jawad is also in the Libyan capital. Earlier she told us about what she's witnessing there.

Rana Jawad: It's still a bit precarious. I can tell you most families have been staying behind closed doors. All of these checkpoints that have been setup over the last 48 hours or so are still very much present. And I can also tell you just in the neighborhood I'm in, and I'm sure it's the same case in other neighborhoods as well, the local residents that are manning these checkpoints, they are armed. However, every time they hear gunshots being fired nearby, because there hasn't been any celebratory gunfire in our area today, and so when there is a sudden burst of gunfire and sometimes it sounds like an exchange of gunfire, they all get very jittery. They look very nervous and they start running down the road with their Kalashnikovs on their backs and shouting to each other. And you think something is wrong, then they come back walking gradually and looking calm again. So, although Tripoli itself is meant to be secured, 80% of it as the rebels claim, people are still very much aware that Colonel Gaddafi is still at large, so are his sons, and that his loyalists are still out there and they could wreak havoc even though they're in small numbers whenever they wanted to.

Werman: So kind of an uneasy calm right now.

Jawad: Yes, and I think it's understandable. I mean this is a regime that has ruled this country for 42 years and that doesn't just melt away physically or psychologically in a matter of days. So I think it will take some time for residents here and probably across the country before a sense of total security is restored. But I say days in terms of Tripoli only when if the rebels consolidate their control over the capital completely, but obviously this will be a long process for the country later on when and if this government is officially toppled.

Werman: What about more basic stuff like food and water? I image that's been slow to come, especially the food, into the capital?

Jawad: The thing is I should probably explain something about the culture here, this is the holy month of Ramadan for Libyans. And they do observe it. And the tradition is that they always stock up on enough supplies to last them for the entire month when Ramadan approaches. And Tripoli's residents, those who can afford it have certainly done so, I believe. So I think they're all right. I think sections of society that will be struggling are those who are more marginalized, the poorer areas of Tripoli, particularly those with low income. And it's not just a matter of the monthly wages of course, because banks here haven't been giving out salaries for months now. There were long cues for the past five months, every day at banks, and sometimes they completely shutdown because all they do all day is turn people back. So, there are a lot of families here in Tripoli that have been struggling for months to make ends meet.

Werman: That was the BBC's Rana Jawad speaking to us earlier from Tripoli.