The head of Tripoli's supreme military council in Libya's interim government, Abdelhakim Belhaj, has warned the former Libyan dictator Muammar Al Qathafi's loyalist fighters and so-called "dormant cells" of the former regime, that they would be targeted in the clean-up operation in a campaign to clear the capital of their ilk.
Belhaj made this pledged of tough action against pro-Al Qathafi loyalists following Friday's fierce battles gunfights in Abu Salim, a district around 10 kilometres south of the city centre instigated by supporters of the former regime that killed three people.
In the first fighting in Tripoli since its capture in August, the Al Qathafi loyalists gunmen on Friday clashed with fighters loyal to the National Transitional Council in an area, Abu Salim, renowned for its prison, which is known for its support to the fugitive leader.
At a news conference, Abdelrazaq al-Aradi, vice president of the security committee in Tripoli, said among the three people killed in the clashes after pro-Al Qathafi demonstrations at the end of Friday prayers, were two Al Qathafi loyalists and an NTC fighter. Another 30 people were wounded.
He went on to say that the people behind the violence were around 50 armed supporters of the former leader, and that 27 of them, including four "African mercenaries," were arrested.
Though NTC officials said they had expected such clashes, residents were surprised with the flare-up at a time when the interim government is expecting a final victory in Al Qathafi's hometown of Sirte in order to proclaim the country's liberation and prepare for the transition to an elected government.
NTC leaders in the meantime kept up their assault on Sirte Sunday in order to smoke out the last remaining Al Qathafi forces trapped in an area not larger than one square kilometre. They keep on resisting the revolutionaries who have been using tanks and rocket fire to push deep into the city.
The fight for the city has dragged on for almost a month despite the prediction and repeated remarks that it was just a matter of time before the former dictator's supporters are overwhelmed and the fight would be over in a few days.
The troops defending their position, are outmanned and outgunned. Their most effective weapon that is causing most problems to the revolutionaries, is the use of snipers.
Along with others they are hiding in buildings with no apparent intention of surrendering. With all the fighting that has been going on, much of Sirte is in ruins.
“It is sheer suicide. They know they have not escape route. The only options are, surrender or be killed. They seem to have chosen the latter option,” one of the commanders said. As such, they would be added to several who have already been killed on both sides. There have been no estimates of the number of fighters and civilians killed there.