Away from the jubilant celebrations, people cower in fear for the future

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The men in the newly renamed Martyrs' Square were triumphant as celebratory gunfire blasted and horns blared from the rebel pick-up trucks parading past them. Jubilant fighters told of their freedom and embraced in the streets.

But away from the euphoric crowds, there were many in Tripoli filled with fear for the coming days and doubts about the future of Libya. "The situation here reminds me of Iraq in 2003," said Mehdi Drar, 52. "We don't know who has entered the city. We don't know anything about the people who will rule this country, about their mentality."

Reclining on a bed in his grimy one-bedroom flat, paralysed from the waist down since a car accident 20 years ago, he spoke of his fears for the future and doubts about the Transitional National Council, as the noise of shelling and gunfire drifted in from the street outside and a small black cat nosed around the mess that surrounded him.

"The past 42 years we knew everything about the country: our people, our politics, everything. Now we don't know anything about the future. We are afraid of the end of this, that Gaddafi will use chemical weapons, that there will be a massacre. I am afraid of both sides – of the rebels and of Gaddafi."

A neighbour in the sprawl of anonymous, rundown apartment blocks a street away from Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound was glum about the latest developments in the capital. "We have no safety in this city. Most of the people in this area have left. There are no families in the building now, just the young men." He did not wish give his name. "It doesn't matter. I'm free, I'm not with the rebels, I'm with myself." Asked about the future for Libya, he was ambivalent: "I don't know, only Allah knows." Many areas within the city remain unsafe as pockets of regime loyalists continue to battle rebels with sniper fire and rockets.

The stench of rotting rubbish filled the streets around Bab al-Aziziya as children carrying pistols and Kalashnikovs clustered around checkpoints, ducking for cover as sniper bullets came from across the compound.