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Signs Of Humanitarian Crisis Emerging In Tripoli

  • RFE/RL

A rebel fighter slaps a wounded man accused of being a mercenary fighting for Muammar Qaddafi outside a fire station in Tripoli

A rebel fighter slaps a wounded man accused of being a mercenary fighting for Muammar Qaddafi outside a fire station in Tripoli

Reports from the Libyan capital Tripoli say a humanitarian crisis appears to be emerging following the ouster of long-time ruler Muammar Qaddafi.
There is a shortage of medicine, fuel, food, water, and power supplies, and growing piles of uncollected garbage.
Reports also speak of new discoveries of bodies of people killed during the battle for the Libyan capital. Reports say that in one such find, the remains of some 50 people have been discovered near a Qaddafi regime military base.

Qaddafi's whereabouts remain unknown.
Acknowledging the humanitarian crisis in Libya, the Arab League of countries has called on countries around the world to unfreeze Libyan assets so the new Libyan authorities can help the population.
In a statement issued after a special meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo, the Arab League also called on the United Nations to permit the Libyan rebels' political organization, the National Transitional Council, to occupy Libya's seat at the UN.

Meanwhile, rebel spokesman Ahmed Omar Bani said on August 27 that "the only way to treat this pest is to make him accountable for the crimes in
Libya."
He also said that "between 10,000 and 11,000 prisoners have been freed up until now" in Tripoli.
But he said that the number of people arrested over the past months is estimated at between 57,000 and 60,000 and it is not clear where those who have not been liberated are.

Call For Help

Libyan rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil has called for emergency humanitarian aid for the capital, Tripoli.

Speaking at a press conference in Benghazi, National Transitional Council Chairman Jalil said, "We are calling all the humanitarian organizations and telling them that Tripoli needs medicines, first-aid products, and surgical material."

Elsewhere, rebel forces captured the Ras Jdir border post on the frontier with Tunisia as they seek to close escape routes that could be used by Qaddafi to flee the country.

A Tunisian official said loyalists fled the border post as more than 100 rebels arrived to occupy it on August 27.

Rebel fighters and NATO aircraft were reportedly intensifying their focus on Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte, located 450 kilometers east of Tripoli and considered Qaddafi's last major region of support.

Rebel forces were reportedly facing stiff resistance from loyalist fighters as they attempted to advance on Sirte, while British warplanes on August 26 were reported to have struck a bunker in Sirte.

Relative Calm In Tripoli

According to reports from Tripoli, some calm appears to be returning to the Libyan capital.

"The fighting here is mostly concluded. It's isolated mostly to one [loyalist stronghold] neighborhood called Abu Salim," RFE/RL's James Kirchick reported from Tripoli on August 26.

"Driving through the streets of Tripoli this morning, however, it's a complete ghost town, there is hardly anyone on the streets save for those manning the checkpoints which are on practically every other block. These are mostly young men in their late teens or early 20s carrying heavy assault rifles, pistols, and they control now most of the city," he said.

Kirchick also observed the first Friday Prayers to be held in the city since most of it came under rebel control.

"It [is] the first time that Friday Prayers have been celebrated in this country in 42 years where Qaddafi has not been in power," he said. "We spoke to several religious leaders today and they were very happy. It's a completely new experience for them. They've been closely monitored by the government, their sermons, their activities. And now they feel a new breath of freedom, really, in being able to practice their religion.

After the day's prayers, a number of residents emerged cautiously from mosques and homes to celebrate in the streets, chanting: "Hold your head high! You are a free Libyan."

UN Police Force

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a swift return to order in Libya, saying that the country is "awash" with small arms and that fighting is continuing in many parts of the country in the aftermath of Qaddafi's ouster from power in Tripoli.

The UN chief added that all the officials who took part in the talks with him "agreed that, if the Libyan authorities request, we should be prepared to help develop a police capacity, bearing in mind that the country is awash with small arms."

Ban gave no further details about a possible international police force for Libya.

He said, however, that there appear to be widespread shortages of fuel, food, and medical supplies, and that water supplies to Tripoli may also be under threat.

with agency reports

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