By Essam Mohamed
Residents of the Libyan capital of Tripoli are living in a state of apprehension following a pledge by revolutionaries to launch a massive uprising on Friday (June 17th).
Several anti-Kadhafi demonstrations have occurred in the capital in recent weeks, with some neighbourhoods raising the independence flag.
In anticipation of the Friday revolt, government forces have stepped up security. Units were deployed at intersections and checkpoints established to search women and children. Previously, families were not subject to search.
Residents also reported widespread wiretapping of private phone calls by authorities in an attempt to suppress the underground rebel movement in the capital.
“There are checkpoints at the area of Gergarsh where even the mobile phones are searched to see the memory cards, videos, pictures or SMSs saved on them,” said Ms Nahla, who insisted that such material was a private matter.
An officer who defected from Moamer Kadhafi’s forces warned citizens that Toyota Tundra vehicles were moving about the capital equipped with tools to remotely listen in on cell phone calls.
Tripoli resident Walid told Magharebia that he was stopped at a checkpoint on Ben Ghasheer Street and asked for his mobile phone. When asked why, the security officer told him that he was searching for people who were sharing anti-Kadhafi material.
Libyan authorities orchestrate a pro-Kadhafi protest in downtown Tripoli on Tuesday.
The on-going conflict is also putting a strain on the capital’s financial system. Youssef, a teacher in Tajoura, said he hadn’t received his pension because of a cash shortage at banks.
He also described how pro-Kadhafi security forces were employing children to spy on their own parents. The teacher said kids were asked what television channels their families watched and whether or not their families loved Kadhafi. Youssef said some children were even given cash payments.
He said such behaviour was deplorable. “Where are those millions or thousands? He’s only oppressing with arms his peaceful people who are struggling for freedom,” Youssef said.
Mosques are also being used to crack down on dissent. In one coastal town, a pro-regime khatib delivered a sermon attacking revolutionaries. Worshippers then stormed out, saying they “came here to pray, not to attend a political seminar!” Security forces were later dispatched to search worshippers’ homes.
Mid-town Tripoli resident Sheikh Ali described regime harassment after his son was killed by pro-Kadhafi forces. He said he fled to Tunisia to protect his family.
Meanwhile in the Nafusa Mountains, National Transitional Council member Rabie Mohamed told Magharebia by phone that “the revolutionaries cleared the city of Rayaina of Kadhafi’s battalions this morning. They arrested a number of mercenaries, and were still searching for the rest.” He also said rebel forces were close to clearing several other mountain towns.
“NATO warplanes launched violent air strikes this morning against Grad rocket launchers, tanks and columns of four-wheel drive vehicles loaded with machine guns at the area between Baer al-Ghanam and Bir Ayad (al-Kalal area) at the foothill of the mountain to help the revolutionaries,” Mohamed added.
He also confirmed that “Lt. Col. Mohamed Bin Sheikh and Maj. Nuri Zamru defected from Kadhafi’s battalions yesterday morning and escaped towards the Algerian border.”
The rebel commander added that Kadhafi’s battalions were killing anyone who refused to fight and then telling their relatives that they were killed in NATO air strikes.