TRIPOLI, July 31 (Xinhua) -- Deadly clashes in Libya's capital city of Tripoli have gradually spread to the city center from its international airport, witnesses said on Thursday.
A witness said he saw intense fighting between rival militias in Gergarish Road, one of the crucial highways linking the city center, while another witness told Xinhua that he could hear heavy shelling and gunfire in Souq al-Jum'aa district in eastern part of the city.
The recent surge in fighting between Islamist fighters and pro- secular militia around Tripoli International Airport has left at least 97 people dead and 404 others wounded.
Security has markedly deteriorated in downtown in recent days. On Wednesday, a Philippine nurse was abducted near her home and gang-raped by six Libyan youth. A day earlier, former Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagor was kidnapped by unknown gunmen for hours in Tripoli.
China, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Britain and the United States have told their citizens to leave Libya. Many feared the conflicts in major cities might morph into a full-fledged civil war, which can be even bloodier than the 2011 turmoil that toppled Libya's former leader Muammar Gaddafi.