TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Intense and sustained machinegun fire broke out in the Libyan capital Tripoli before dawn on Sunday, Reuters witnesses said.
It was unclear who was shooting, which started at about 5:45 a.m. (10:45 p.m. EST), or what caused it. Automatic weapon rounds, some of it heavy caliber, echoed around central Tripoli along with pro-Gaddafi chants and whistling and a cacophony of car horns as vehicles sped through the vicinity.
A government spokesman denied any fighting was under way in Tripoli. "I assure you, I assure you, I assure you, I assure you, there is no fighting going on in Tripoli," said Mussa Ibrahim, a government spokesman.
"Everything is safe. Tripoli is 100 percent under control. What you are hearing is celebratory fireworks. People are in the streets, dancing in the square." He added, however: "I would like to advise not to go there for your safety.
Tripoli is the main stronghold of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi as he faces a two-week-old rebellion posing the biggest challenge ever to his 41-year-old autocratic rule in the oil-exporting North African state.