Tripoli calmer as Gadhafi’s men pushed out

TRIPOLI (AP) — Tripoli on Friday enjoyed its calmest day since the rebel takeover nearly a week ago, and hundreds even celebrated with a march chanting: “Hold your head high! You are a free Libyan.” The more relaxed atmosphere was one of the strongest signs yet that Moammar Gadhafi and his loyalists have largely been driven out of the capital.

As the fighting waned, the International Red Cross in Geneva expressed concern about treatment of detainees on both sides.

Associated Press reporters saw eight wounded men, apparently Gadhafi supporters, who had been abandoned in a bombed out fire station in the Tripoli neighborhood of Abu Salim, scene of ferocious clashes on Thursday. Abu Baker Amin, 24, his right leg broken by a grenade, said he had not received food or water for two days. An emaciated man lay on the floor and pleading for water. Local residents made no attempt to get the wounded to a hospital.

With the capital more secure, NATO and rebel fighters turned their attention to Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte, his last major bastion of support. British warplanes struck a large bunker there, while local rebel commander Fadl-Allah Haron said that if city residents don’t surrender fast, “a battle will be waiting for them there.”

Back in Tripoli, some residents emerged gingerly from homes where they had taken cover from extensive gunbattles the rocked the city since the rebels rolled in on Sunday night.

In a mosque near the city’s central square, an imam at Friday noon prayers praised the rebels for taking up arms against Gadhafi. He said they had “liberated the land inch by inch, house by house, alley by alley,” mimicking an infamous Gadhafi speech early in the uprising threatening those who opposed him.

Most stores remained close, except for neighborhood groceries where residents grabbed supplies to break their daytime fast for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

While rebels were pushing Gadhafi fighters to Tripoli’s outskirts, occasional firefights flared in the city. Abdul Majid Mgleta, a rebel military chief, said there were still some pockets of resistance, but he hoped to take full control over the capital and capture Gadhafi within days.

In the afternoon, shots were fired at the roof terrace of the Corinthia hotel where scores of journalists were working. The shots came from nearby high-rise buildings. A rebel dressed in fatigues crossed the terrace to the fence and began shooting randomly at the buildings. At one point, rebels also fired anti-aircraft guns and a large explosion was heard. There has been fighting around the hotel for several days now.

SA president:

AU will not recognize Libya rebels

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — The African Union will not yet recognize Libyan rebels as the new government of Libya, South African President Jacob Zuma said Friday, rejecting calls for recognition from Libyan rebel leaders.

Zuma called for an immediate cease-fire and said the Libyan capital of Tripoli was not yet under full rebel control. He spoke as AU leaders met in the Ethiopian capital to discuss the next action they should take regarding Libya. Many African nations have long ties with Col. Moammar Gadhafi and the AU has had difficulty taking a unanimous stand.

He said the AU did not rule out pro- or anti-Gadhafi forces from taking part in a future Libyan government. African countries like Ethiopia and Nigeria that already recognized the rebels were free to do so and also support the AU position, he said.

The U.N. has urged African leaders to “encourage new leadership” in Libya.

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