Libyan rebels storm Gadhafi’s Tripoli compound
Libyan rebels stormed Moammar Gadhafi’s main military compound in Tripoli today after fierce gunbattles with forces loyal to his regime, stomping on a bronze bust of the longtime leader, whose whereabouts remained unknown.
There was heavy fighting before the rebels broke through the green gates of the compound and shooting broke out from other parts of the large, sprawling complex. The body of a slain Gadhafi fighter with a gaping head wound was sprawled on the floor of one of two tents that had been used for pro-regime protests. The other tent was partially on fire.
The heavily fortified complex, which has been heavily damaged by NATO airstrikes for five of the six months since the anti-regime uprising began, is the most defining symbol of Gadhafi’s nearly 42-year rule and its occupation, a day after the rebels swept into the Libyan capital with stunning speed, comes as the opposition faced pockets of resistance and fighting rocked the capital.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said Tuesday that it was clear the rebels were winning “important successes … but this is not yet an ordered or secure situation.” “They have fought their way to the gates of Gadhafi’s compound, that is a historic achievement,” Hague told Britain’s Sky News. “It’s not over yet, but we are in the death throes of a despicable regime.”
Libyan rebels fire into the air in the Bab El Bahrah district in Tripoli, on Tuesday.
Gadhafi’s former right-hand man Abdel-Salam Jalloud, who defected earlier this month, told Al-Jazeera television that he thought the Libyan leader was moving around the outskirts of Tripoli, taking shelter at private homes, small hotels and mosques. Jalloud defected this month. The battle for Bab al-Azizya, in which mortars, heavy machine-guns and anti-aircraft guns were used, came hours after Gadhafi’s son and heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, made a dramatic appearance in Tripoli as a free man, thwarting Libyan rebel claims he had been captured and rallying supporters.
Farther east from Tripoli, the rebels reported territorial gains at the expense of the regime forces. Mohammed al-Rijail, a rebel spokesman in Benghazi, said rebel fighters have advanced to al-Aqaila, some 25 miles from the oil port city of Ras Lanouf. “There was no resistance and no fighting as Gadhafi forces retreated to Ras Lanouf,” he said.