Libyans grow "afraid" as protesters near Tripoli

A Libyan protester shouts slogans against Libyan leader Muammar al Qaddafi during a demonstration before Friday prayers in Benghazi, Libya, Feb. 25, 2011. AP Photo

A Libyan protester shouts slogans against Libyan leader Muammar al Qaddafi during a demonstration before Friday prayers in Benghazi, Libya, Feb. 25, 2011.
AP Photo

Residents of Libya's capital city of Tripoli are growing "increasingly afraid" Friday from deadly clashes in the streets and from reports that the protest movement that has already taken over parts of the country is approaching, CBS News' Ben Plesser reports from Tripoli.

"People are increasingly afraid," Plesser, one of the first western journalists to arrive in the capital since the unrest began, told CBS Radio News. "People are staying off the streets completely. The streets are kind of eerily empty."

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After government agents showed Plesser a rally in Green Square in support of Libyan leader Muammar al Qaddafi, Plesser heard gunfire from his hotel in the center of Tripoli, where anti-government protesters clashed with the Qaddafi supporters.

"Eyewitnesses quietly told us that when people came out of the mosque just near that Green Square where Qaddafi was speaking, when people came out of the mosque after prayers they started chanting anti-Qaddafi slogans," said Plesser. "This group of pro-Qaddafi protesters came down. There was a clash, there was some gunfire and there are reports of injuries and even deaths, and this is right in the middle of Tripoli."

Libyans largely get their news from state television, which broadcasts events such as the small but "very fervent, very loud" crowd of Qaddafi supporters demonstrating, Plesser reports.

(Watch Qaddafi speak at the demonstration at left)

But some Libyans are also able to receive broadcasts from pan-Arab satellite channels, which carry reports from the anti-Qaddafi opposition in the east, Plesser reports.

"They're watching these Arab TV channels, and they feel like the war is coming closer to their homes," Plesser said.

Plesser's access to the capital city is limited to the discretion of the government agents escorting him.

"Our movements here are controlled by the government to a large extent," said Plesser. "We're constantly in the company of government agents."

  • Alex Sundby

    Alex Sundby is an associate news editor for CBSNews.com

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