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Fighting erupts in Tripoli as Gaddafi loyalists try to drum up support

A gun battle erupted yesterday between revolutionary forces and Muammar Gaddafi's supporters in the heart of the Libyan capital for the first time since the dictator was ousted.

Anti-Gaddafi fighters converged on Tripoli's Abu Salim neighbourhood in pick-up trucks mounted with weapons, sealing it off as heavy gunfire echoed through the streets.

Fighters at the scene said the shooting began after a group of armed men tried to raise the green flag – the national flag during Gaddafi's tenure and a symbol of his loyalists.

Fighter Ahmad al-Warsly, from the Zintan brigade, said several Gaddafi supporters apparently planned a protest but drew fire because they were armed. They then fled and were pursued by revolutionary forces, prompting fierce street battles. "It seems like it was organised," the fighter said. "They were planning to have a big demonstration, then the fight started."

Gaddafi has issued several audio recordings from hiding trying to rally supporters against the North African nation's Transitional National Council, the rebel leadership.

In Gaddafi's home town of Sirte, rebel forces spent yesterday pounding Gaddafi supporters. They claim the city is about to fall. A new interim government would then be named prior to elections within eight months.