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Gaddafi leading fight against rebels: Spokesman

The call came as an intense gunbattle broke out in the Tripoli neighborhood of Abu Salim, a pro-Gaddafi stronghold.



Tripoli: Muammar Gaddafi is safely in hiding
and leading the battle against the Libyan rebels, his
spokesman said on Thursday, as fierce gunfights broke out in Tripoli
while the opposition tried to assert control over the oil-rich
country.

Moussa Ibrahim said in a phone call to the Associated
Press the longtime dictator was in Libya and his morale was
high.

Gaddafi "is indeed leading the battle for our freedom and
independence" said Ibrahim, who was recognizable by his voice.

Ibrahim refused to say where in Libya Gaddafi was hiding
Ibrahim, who had for months appeared daily in televised news
conferences since the start of the rebellion six months ago,
added he himself was in an undisclosed location in Libya and
constantly on the move.

"All of the leader`s family are fine," Ibrahim said,
adding that top military and political aides remained with
Gaddafi.

He said Gaddafi was capable of continuing resistance for
"weeks, months and years."

Ibrahim claimed Gaddafi`s forces controlled a "good
portion" of the capital a claim that contradicts what
reporters are seeing on the ground and other cities and towns.
He also accused NATO of besieging Gaddafi strongholds
such as Sirte.

The call came as an intense gunbattle broke out in the
Tripoli neighborhood of Abu Salim, a pro-Gaddafi stronghold.

Another battle erupted outside the Corinthia hotel where
many foreign journalists are staying, as about a dozen rebels
with machine guns and an anti-aircraft gun fired on what
appeared to be loyalist gunmen shooting from nearby high-rise
buildings.

The rebels are struggling to take complete control of
Tripoli, four days after they swept into the capital and
sparked the collapse of Gaddafi`s regime.

The autocrat has refused to surrender and has vowed from
hiding to fight on "until victory or martyrdom."

The rebel leadership has offered a USD 2 million bounty
on Gaddafi`s head, and British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said
Thursday that NATO was helping in the search for the longtime
dictator.

Fox told BBC Radio 4 that NATO was "providing
intelligence and reconnaissance assets to help in the hunt,"
and had been heavily active in carrying out overnight
airstrikes against Gaddafi loyalists, but refused to say if
British Special Forces were involved.

In Brussels, a NATO official said some airstrikes were
launched because Gaddafi`s forces had been detected trying to
restore some of their damaged weapons systems, including
surface-to-air missiles, which the official called a "huge
threat" to alliance aircraft and humanitarian aid flights.

PTI

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