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In Libya, fighters taking on supporters of Moammar Gadhafi are facing stiff resistance in his hometown of Sirte. It's one of the last areas that has not fallen to rebel forces. But it's hardly the last bastion of loyalty to the deposed leader. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports from Tripoli.


LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: It's a busy afternoon in the market in the southern Tripoli neighborhood of Abu Salim. People mill around the shops while stall owners hawk their wares. It doesn't take long for a man to approach a visiting reporter and say under his breath, you know, we all support Gadhafi here. Soon after, a crowd gathers and one of the young men gains confidence. His name is Anis, but he says he speaks for most people in Abu Salim.

ANIS: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I am a Gadhafi loyalist. I want Moammar. Some people are afraid to speak out, he says, but I'm not. All I've known is Gadhafi. And I felt secure back then. There are many of us who feel the same way, he says, but we are afraid to speak out because we might get beaten or shot. Abu Salim was the last Tripoli neighborhood to fall to rebel forces. It's long been known as a hotbed of Gadhafi support. But it's not alone. By some estimates, as much as 30 to 40 percent of the population in Libya is sympathetic to Gadhafi. And how that's playing out in a place like Abu Salim provides a window into the potential problems Libya is facing in the aftermath of its brutal revolution.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: At Samud Elementary School, children dressed in dark blue smocks with white scalloped collars line up before classes and sing the new national anthem.

But getting the children here to learn the anthem hasn't been easy.

FATHIA AHMED: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Principal Fathia Ahmed says some children flat-out refused to take the printout of the anthem's lyrics when it was handed out. And she says only about half of the students who should be here are. Some parents are keeping their children home because they don't want them to learn the new revolutionary curriculum. Fathia Ahmed herself is new to the job. The previous principal was too closely allied to the former regime, she says, and is taking what she delicately terms an extended vacation.

AHMED: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: She says most of the people in Abu Salim are extremely poor, and they worked for the government or the army, which helps explain their sympathies. She says she's spent the better part of the first two weeks of school trying to undo 42 years of indoctrination, speaking well of the rebels and the revolution to her students and their parents. But it will take more than that to change people's minds. Gadhafi gave little to this downtrodden neighborhood. But it's still more than they're getting now in these chaotic early days.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: At the local Abu Salim council, a woman comes to ask for help. She has three children, her husband's out of work, and her house was destroyed in the fighting. The Gadhafi government allocated her new lodgings, but the regime fell before she could move into the new house. Now she doesn't know who to turn to for help.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Local council member Musbah Shawesh listens sympathetically but then sends her away. We are all volunteers here, he tells her. We have no money and no power to grant housing.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: At a checkpoint in Abu Salim, two anti-Gadhafi fighters argue about what they would do if they spot someone waving Gadhafi's green flag.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: One says it's democracy. As long as they don't have a weapon, I would let them go on their way.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The other waves his gun and says he would shoot them dead. Back at the market, Gadhafi supporter Anis says the new government should prove its democratic credentials.

ANIS: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: If this is real democracy, he says, don't shut us up. Allow us to say what we really believe. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Tripoli.

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