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Frantic resident describes attack on town near Tripoli

WASHINGTON — A rebellious town close to Libya's capital was under assault Wednesday by gunmen loyal to dictator Moammar Gadhafi and African mercenaries, said a resident, who pleaded for President Barack Obama to "do anything."

At least 21 people were shot dead by the pro-Gadhafi force in the center of Tajura, about 15 miles east of Tripoli, and close to a cardiac medical center, said Essam, whose last name was withheld by McClatchy for his safety.

"In the center of Tajura, and near the heart hospital there are many, many armed Africans," said Essam in one of the few phone calls that went through to the Tripoli area during the day. "Please, we need help. There are many people killed. Now 21 at this time, 21 people killed in the road."

His account matched numerous reports from other residents of murderous attacks, including strafing runs by aircraft, unleashed by Gadhafi to quell an eight-day-old uprising that's threatening his 42-year grip on power.

Tajura is the hometown of Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa.

Several Libyan exiles in the U.S. said protesters took over Tajura on Sunday, igniting clashes with regime loyalists, as anti-Gadhafi demonstrations by thousands of people erupted in nearby Tripoli.

The "big attack" to reclaim Tajura began on Wednesday afternoon, when the pro-Gadhafi forces of Libyan gunmen and African mercenaries moved in from Tripoli, said Essam, whose voice trembled as he spoke.

"Now, all the people are in the house, we cannot go out. If anyone go out, they will be killed," he said. "We have three or people sleeping together. We are very afraid. We have nothing to save us. It's very difficult. Obama, do anything, kindly please."

(Butt reports for the Merced Sun-Star.)

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