Heavy machinegun fire rocks Libyan capital Tripoli

Heavy automatic gunfire erupted early in centre of Tripoli, an area that has been free of violence.

Tripoli: Heavy automatic gunfire erupted early Sunday in the centre of Tripoli, an area that has so far been relatively free of violence, a news agency journalist reported.

It was not immediately clear where the shots were coming from. They were heard at a hotel not far from the capital`s Green Square area.

The capital, under the control of Moamer Kadhafi`s forces, has largely avoided the violence raging through the rest of the country where rebels have taken over a swathe of the east as well as the second city of Benghazi.

Kadhafi and the rebels are both vying for international recognition.

The long-serving leader, who faces the most serious challenge to his iron-fisted rule, said in an interview published Sunday that he would welcome a UN or African Union probe into the violence wracking Libya.

"We will let this panel work unhampered," he told French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.

Kadhafi has repeatedly blamed the insurrection on al Qaeda and youngsters fuelled on drugs and claimed that his people loved him.

"There is an Islamic jihad facing you from the Mediterranean," he said in the interview, referring to European nations. "(Osama) Bin Laden will install himself in North Africa... You will have Bin Laden at your gates.

"They will attack the US Sixth Fleet. There will be acts of piracy here at your gates, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from your borders. Bin Laden`s men will demand ransom from land and sea. This will really become an international crisis."

According to UN estimates, more than 191,000 people have fled the violence and about 10,000 homeless people were heading to the Egyptian border.

Bureau Report