Rebels capture key military base near Tripoli

Libyan rebels have captured a major base defending Muammar Gaddafi’s stronghold of Tripoli, the Associated Press reported. A reporter with the rebels saw them take over the base of the Khamis Brigade, 16 miles west of the capital on Sunday.

The allegedly overrun 32nd Brigade is commanded by Gaddafi’s 27-year-old son Khamis. Commonly called the Khamis Brigade, it is one of the best trained and equipped units in the Libyan military.

The rebels seized large stores of weapons from the base and drove away with truckloads of new supplies.

Germany and France urged Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to step down immediately as rebels advance on the Libyan capital Tripoli.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that heavy gunfire rang out near a Tripoli hotel where members of the foreign media are staying. A correspondent heard bursts of automatic gunfire.

Libyan activists in Tripoli claimed some 200 rebel reinforcements have reached Tripoli by sea from Misrata.

Reports from Tripoli were impossible to confirm because journalists were confined to their hotel, and mobile phone contact was cut off in many areas, making it hard for residents to know exactly what was happening in other areas.

A source in Tripoli said overnight fighting in the city left 376 dead on both sides, and more than 1,000 injured.

At the same time Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said he will stay in Tripoli “until the end” and called on his supporters around the country to help liberate the capital from a rebel offensive, Reuters quoted the Libya strongman as saying, citing state television.

In a broadcasted audio message, Gaddafi said he was “afraid that Tripoli will burn” and that he would provide weapons to supporters to fight off the rebels.

Franklin Lamb, director of Americans for Middle East Peace, confirmed  from Tripoli that gunfire is being heard. The Marriott Hotel, he said, seems to be on fire.

People are preparing here; people are moving around,” Lamb told RT via phone. “Young men are taking up defensive positions and are going to different areas where they are directed.

Lamb admitted that his only source on rebel movements is Western media.

There is certain anxiety and tension and adrenaline flowing,” he said. “Nobody knows how far [the rebels] are. The mainstream media are reporting they are getting closer and closer.

Lamb said he saw tourist buses filled with young men heading along the streets to fortify the Gaddafi loyalists’ positions in the capital.

­Shooting in the Libyan capital is also confirmed by independent journalist Lizzie Phelan, who has been speaking with RT from Tripoli. The journalist says the gunfire is coming from rebel snipers.

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