Rebels Overrun Qaddafi Compound
Muammar Qaddafi's whereabouts are unknown as rebels overrun his compound
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 8/23/2011, 8:09 PM
Libyan rebels have seized Muammar Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli, one of the final areas under the Libyan leader's control.
TV footage showed fighters destroying statues and firing guns into the air in celebration inside the compound, which is several square kilometers in size. Rebel commanders targeted the buildings as they have served as a symbol of Qaddafi's rule.
It is not known if Qaddafi or any members of his family are in the Bab al-Aziziya compound and reports of gunfire still poured out of the area.
Russian chessmaster Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, an associate of Qaddafi's who spoke with him by telephone, said Libya's leader of 41-years told him he would not leave the country.
"I am alive and healthy, I am in Tripoli and do not intend to leave Libya. Do not believe the lying reports by Western television companies," Qaddafi reportedly told him by telephone on Tuesday.
Heavily armed fighters had streamed into the capital on Tuesday morning in scores of pick-up trucks to take part in the attack. In the west of the city, many of the districts are already solidly under the control of the rebels, who hours later breached a wall and quickly overran the compound.
There were no obvious signs of resistance, despite reports that hundreds of Qaddafi loyalists had been tasked with guarding the compound. The rebels were shown destroying statues of Qaddafi and firing guns in the air in celebration.
The Bab al-Aziziya complex is reported to be connected by underground tunnels to various key locations across the city. It houses military buildings, Qaddafi's main residence, a library and government offices.
The whereabouts of Qaddafi and his family are not clear.
The BBC's Rana Jawad in Tripoli says there is a real sense that this is the end of Qaddafi's rule, but the real celebrations will not begin until he and his family are found.
Early on Tuesday the colonel's son Saif al-Islam spoke to journalists at the Rixos Hotel, hours after the rebels said he had been captured. His whereabouts, like his father's, are currently unknown.
Meanwhile, members of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) in Benghazi said they planned to fly to the capital on Wednesday to start work on forming a new government.
NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil also said all Qaddafi aides would face justice and fair criminal trials.
"I will stand trial- for years I served as a minister in the Qaddafi government," he told a news conference in Benghazi.
He advised Libyans to be tolerant, saying they should "avoid taking matters into their own hands and... abide by court rulings".
The NTC leadership has expressed concern about revenge attacks by some of the mosaic of different groups which make up the rebel army.