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Rebel leaders in Tunis and eastern Libya hailed the beginning of a new uprising in the capital against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s rule. And after months of rebel offenses that crumbled or stalled despite heavy support from a NATO airstrike campaign, it was the first time since the uprising began in February that the rebels threatened Colonel Qaddafi’s ultimate stronghold.

“We are coordinating the attacks inside, and our forces from outside are ready to enter Tripoli,” said Anwar Fekini, a rebel leader from the mountainous region in western Libya, speaking by telephone from Tunis. “If you can call any mobile number in Tripoli, you will hear in the background the beautiful sound of the bullets of freedom.”

Phone calls to several Tripoli residents from different neighborhoods confirmed widespread gunfire and explosions. And there were reports of frequent NATO jet overflights and airstrikes — a common accompaniment to the drumbeat of the rebel advance in the past week.

But in an audio message broadcast on state television, his second in a week, Colonel Qaddafi rejected claims of rebel gains, saying his forces had beaten back the Tripoli uprising within hours and announcing military successes in the same cities rebels had claimed to seize on Saturday. He gave the date and time several times to confirm that he was speaking as events were unfolding.

“The rebels are fleeing like rats, to the mountains,” Colonel Qaddafi said.

But even as he described a “collapse” among rebel fighters and NATO forces, he railed at world leaders who were supporting the uprising, accusing them of giving rebels “weapons to destroy our air-conditioners!”

He gave no indication of where he might be speaking from, a topic of increasing speculation in recent days as rumors have swirled of his preparing to flee, or perhaps having already left Libya.