Gaddafi troops parade in Zawiyah after rebel rout

Gaddafi troops parade in Zawiyah after rebel rout

On Martyrs' Square, the epicentre of clashes, 200-300 loyalists proclaimed their love for Gaddafi, waving his portrait and the regime's green flag as foreign journalists arrived on a government-organised visit.

Barely a window remains intact and shelling has removed whole walls, but somehow the minaret has remained intact.

The hotel that had served as the rebels' headquarters is ravaged.
"The bad guys have fled. There were still 35 or 40 of them yesterday (Thursday) with Kalashnikovs and higher-calibre weapons, but we disarmed them," said Walid, who claimed to be a student who volunteered to fight against the rebels.

"We cannot live here without Muammar Gaddafi. He is the king of kings across Africa, not only in Libya," said Walid, a machine-gun slung across his shoulder.

All around him soldiers danced on vehicles and waved weapons in the air as a government-chartered bus approached, full of international journalists being escorted around the battlefield.

"I love Gaddafi", one of them shouted as the bus came near.
Zawiyah, a prosperous dormitory town 40 kilometres west of Tripoli, was retaken by Gaddafi loyalists on Wednesday night, officials and residents said.

"According to an initial toll, 14 people, from both sides, were killed (in Zawiyah)," Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim told a news conference in Tripoli yesterday.
"We will know more about the number of dead and those arrested in the next few days," he added.

Witness to the fighting have told AFP that fierce battles were fought in Zawiyah last week, some even speaking of a "massacre" while other said that a number of people have been arrested since loyalists captured the town.

Zawiya, home to 250,000 inhabitants, is largely deserted yesterday. Shops are closed and many iron shutters have been ripped by gunfire or blasts.

Signs of dissent are still visible despite efforts by the authorities to erase them by whitewhashing walls and the faint outline of a graffiti that reads "down with the regime" can still be made out.

A makeshift cemetery in the town's Martyrs' Square where the rebel buried their dead has been crushed by tanks.