RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
In Libya, rebels continue to battle government forces around the Mediterranean oil port of Brega. Brega is in the eastern part of the country and that part of the country is mostly in rebel control hands. But in most of western Libya, Moammar Gadhafi remains firmly in control.
NPR's Lourdes Garcia Navarro has this report from Tripoli.
LOURDES GARCIA NAVARRO: For weeks after the uprising began here, protesters would use Friday, the Muslim holy day, as a cover for their anti-Gadhafi rallies. Groups of men would head to pray at their local mosque and then take to the streets in defiance of the Libyan leader. No more.
So it's Friday and this has been the traditional day for protests in the capital, Tripoli, but as I'm driving around town, it's extremely quiet. The only clusters of people are around the gas stations, where there are extremely long lines of cars waiting to fill up their tanks. Of course the question arises: Where is the western rebellion at?
Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: At one of the few shops that's open on Friday, this man tells us the protests are over for now.
Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Everyone is afraid, he says, everyone stays at home.
A government minder sent to monitor journalists comes into the shop and the interview abruptly ends. It's indicative of what people say has happened in the capital and in former rebel-held towns like Zawiya. Throughout the West, Gadhafi is reasserting his control.
The only way to talk to people freely is by phone.
(Soundbite of phone ringing)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Many of the protest leaders' cell phones no longer work. We are protecting this Tripoli resident's identity for his own safety. He lives near the neighborhood of Tajoura, one of the former hotbeds of dissent in the capital. He says thousands of people have been arrested in the past few weeks and no one knows where they are.
Unidentified Man #2: I'm talking about two or three thousand people being arrested and picked up first thing in the morning. We don't know if they're still alive or dead (unintelligible).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And you say people have been arrested and we don't - you don't know where they are. I mean, has anyone been - has anyone been returned to the neighborhood, people that have been arrested, protest people?
Unidentified Man #2: No, no, no. No one's been (unintelligible).
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Are people still meeting in houses to talk about this or is everyone staying in their own house and not talking about this anymore?
Unidentified Man #2: They can't talk about it now because as soon as they say something, straightaway you get picked up.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Thank you.
Unidentified Man #2: People like boiling, boiling, you know, you know, people like boiling inside.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why are people boiling? They're just angry or...
Unidentified Man #2: Boiling, boiling (unintelligible) angry, angry, angry, angry. They all be losing lives and killing (unintelligible)...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Small pockets of resistance remain. There are reports that the town of Zintan, 100 miles away from the capital, was being shelled by government forces yesterday. Nalut, another town near the border with Tunisia, reportedly also remains in rebel hands.
But the only sizable area still out of government control in the West is the city of Misrata, and it's a battle zone.
(Soundbite of explosions)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is from YouTube video posted yesterday. It shows a rocket-propelled grenade being fired at a Gadhafi vehicle.
Street battles are common there now as the rebels and loyalists to Gadhafi face off in residential neighborhoods. We spoke to one Misrata resident. We can't verify his information because journalists haven't been allowed free access to the besieged city.
Unidentified Man #3: (Foreign language spoken)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It was hard to leave home today, he says, because there are many snipers on the roofs of buildings. Every day we have at least two or three or four civilians dead, he says, adding: We will keep fighting, even though the situation is incredibly difficult.
The only access to the rebel-held part of the city is the seaport, and even that's dangerous. A Turkish vessel docked yesterday to evacuate wounded and families, but so many people mobbed the ship that it had to depart earlier than scheduled. Those they left behind face shortages of food, medicine and basic supplies.
Despite talk of a cease-fire by Gadhafi, all evidence points to his desire to crush what's left of the rebellion in western Libya.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Tripoli.
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