by Staff Writers
Khamis Brigade Barracks, Libya (AFP) Aug 22, 2011
Libyan rebels swarm into the barracks of Moamer Kadhafi's feared Khamis Brigade, rejoicing at the treasure trove of weapons within, sent like a gift from God on their last stop before Tripoli.
The complex's seemingly endless towering grey walls belie the incongruous sun-dappled forest of the military base that lies within, home to the reportedly best-trained and best-equipped brigade of Kadhafi's army.
The celebratory gunfire is deafening as hundreds of rebels fire myriad rounds from small and large calibre weapons, filling the air with the smell of cordite while the gunsmoke highlights the sunbeams cutting through the trees.
"Don't shoot in the air as you come in!" screams one rebel, as if to scold beloved children. "Your bullets will ricochet off the ceiling of the gateway."
"Allahu akbar!" (God is the greatest) the fighters shout, thanking Allah for what he has given them.
Some rebels parade around in a tank, getting the feel for the controls before heading for Tripoli, while others pile pickup trucks high with rockets, mortars and explosives.
Artillery pieces are hooked up to the back of cars and dragged away to the Libyan capital, sparks flying as they bounce along the searingly hot tarmac of the highway that leads to Libya's dreamt-of renaissance after more than four decades of Kadhafi's brutal rule.
It seems strange that the brigade, named after and commanded by Kadhafi's youngest son Khamis, has abandoned its home without much of a fight, and even without using much of its vast catalogue of deadly devices.
While other Libyan units are largely made up of conscripts, and thus liable to desertion, these soldiers are professional.
Either they want to draw the rebels into Tripoli where they have prepared a nasty surprise, or Kadhafi's troops simply have no fight left.
The scorched grass outside the base nevertheless bears testimony to the fighting that preceded the base's capture, although rebels insist they did not meet much resistance.
One freedom fighter initially tries to prevent journalists entering the base, saying that snipers remain within, but he eventually relents.
Moments later, the same journalists flee after hearing the distinctive whistle of bullets being fired horizontally, this time in anger rather than jubilation.
A group of huddled rebels claim they have seized four cases of hi-tech missiles.
"These are heat seeking missiles, they're going to Tripoli and we're going to give them to Kadhafi personally," says rebel Ahmed.
The rebels are confident that they will have the technological know-how to use them when the time comes.
However, an AFP journalist looking at the drab green boxes notices that they are in fact wire-guided Milan anti-tank missiles, very useful in their revolutionary quest, but not the hoped for heat-seekers.
The 27 Kilometre Bridge outside, which like the base is named for the fact that it lies that distance from the very heart of the Libyan capital, straddles the motorway.
Rebels clamber up the structure despite comrades' warnings of snipers. From here they can admire the view of their ultimate target: Tripoli.
China says it 'respects Libyan people's choice'
The foreign ministry's comments came as heavy fighting raged near Kadhafi's Tripoli compound, prompting the United States to say the embattled strongman's regime was at a "tipping point".
"China respects the Libyan people's choice and hopes Libya will return to stability soon and the people will lead a normal life," foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement.
"China is willing to work with the international community to play a constructive role in the future reconstruction of Libya."
Chinese economic interests in Libya include oil, railway and telecoms projects, and it has been taking on a more active role recently in the crisis afflicting the major energy producer.
Rebels in Libya staged a lightning strike through Tripoli on Sunday, and fighting continued a day later as pockets of resistance from Kadhafi loyalists remained in the capital.
The whereabouts of Kadhafi were unknown but one of his sons, Seif al-Islam, has been arrested while another, Mohamed Kadhafi, was interviewed by Al-Jazeera television cowering in his house, afraid to leave.
US President Barack Obama said Kadhafi's 42-year autocratic regime was at a "tipping point" and that the "tyrant" must go, calling also on the rebels to respect human rights and move to democracy.
A spokesman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, meanwhile, said the end of the Kadhafi regime was near and called for the strongman to relinquish all power to avoid further bloodshed.
China had initially maintained a policy of non-interference and public neutrality on the conflict in Libya, calling multiple times for a peaceful end to the popular uprising.
But in recent months it has become more involved in the crisis, and Chinese officials have met several times with members of the Libyan opposition's National Transitional Council (NTC).
In June, Beijing recognised Libya's opposition as an "important dialogue partner" after talks in the Chinese capital between Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and senior rebel leader Mahmud Jibril.
China mounted a massive land, sea and air operation to evacuate nearly 36,000 of its nationals -- most of them working in the rail, oil and telecom sectors -- from Libya after fighting first broke out in February.
The West has thrown its diplomatic and financial support behind the NTC, which has been recognised by about a dozen countries including Britain, France and the United States.
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Israel hits Gaza group, which denies Negev attacks
Rafah, Palestinian Territories (AFP) Aug 19, 2011
A Gaza militant group on Friday denied killing eight Israelis the day before but Israel continued to hunt down its members, killing the sixth in 24 hours of air strikes on Gaza. An Israeli air strike on the northern Gaza Strip killed a member of the Popular Resistance Committees, which Israel blames for a deadly series of ambushes on its citizens along the Israel-Egypt border Thursday, the g ... read more
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