TRIPOLI A gunbattle broke out in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Friday between 20 to 50 armed supporters of deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi and forces of the National Transitional Council (NTC), a Reuters witness and residents said.
NTC fighters in pick-up trucks raced towards the scene in the Abu Salim neighbourhood, a centre of support for Gaddafi. The two sides exchanged automatic and heavy machinegun fire, the Reuters witness said.
Local residents said the group of armed men had appeared in Abu Salim earlier and had begun chanting pro-Gaddafi slogans.
NTC fighters said fighting had also broken out in the nearby Hadhba neighbourhood.
"Gaddafi told them in a message last night to rise up after Friday prayers," said an NTC fighter, Abdullah. "That's why these few people have come out and are causing this problem."
Gaddafi has released a number of audio recordings calling on loyalists to fight the new government which ousted him from power when its forces captured Tripoli two months ago.
"I urge all Libyan people to go out and march in their millions in all the squares, in all the cities and villages and oases," he said in one such message earlier this month.
"Go peacefully ... be courageous, rise up, go to the streets, raise our green flags to the skies," Gaddafi said.
(Reporting by Barry Malone; Writing by Jon Hemming)