Middle-East

Situation in Tripoli Calm Despite Clashes in Western Town

Tripoli (Xinhua) — The situation in the Libyan capital remained relatively calm Friday although anti-government forces and loyalists of Muammar Gaddafi reportedly clashed in a western town.

Shops in downtown Tripoli were still open at dusk but barely with customers. Gaddafi’s supporters continued to rally in the capital to show their backing for the embattled leader as 2,000 people gathered in the central Green Square.

But some 100 club-wielding protesters and pro-Gaddafi demonstrators scuffled in the Gzaer Square after noon prayers. Witness said police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd and sealed off the area.

In Tripoli’s eastern Tajoura district, opponents and supporters of the regime also traded blows, but no one was injured during the conflict.

The violence has greatly affected residents in the capital. A taxi driver complained about his slack business since protesters took to the streets last month in a bid to put an end to the 41-year rule of Gaddafi.

The man said his income dropped by almost 40 percent after the weeks-long protests plunged the North African nation into chaos.

In Zawiyah, a town 40 km west of Tripoli, government troops tried but failed to retake control of the opposition-held region. Medics said at least 80 people were killed and 120 others wounded in the fierce fighting. A commander of the rebel forces was reportedly killed in the battle.

Reporters from international news organizations, including Xinhua, The Associated Press, Reuters, BBC and The Wall Street Journal, were invited to visit Ras el-Jadir, a town on the western border with Tunisia, on Thursday.

Nassar Sherif, chief of Libya’s second largest oil refinery, told Xinhua that his plant operated normally.

Production at the refinery, which employed 2,000 workers, was not disrupted by the anti-government protests, he said.

Checkpoints were erected along a seaside road to the town. Some of the checkpoints were manned by government troops and police, others by pro-government militia groups.

Burned buildings were seen in the towns of al-Ajaylat, Jamal and Zantan.

On the Libya-Tunisia border, hundreds of Vietnamese and Bangladeshi workers were waiting to leave the violence-wracked country.

In the rebel-controlled Zawiyah, more than 10 tanks and artillery were seen parked on the roadside.

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