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Snipers fight on at Gaddafi's compound
Gunfire and occasional explosions continue to pose danger to rebels as elusive Libyan leader remains defiant.
Last Modified: 24 Aug 2011 06:47
Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports from Gaddafi's fallen compound in Tripoli

Libyan rebels have continued to consolidate their grip on the capital, Tripoli, by capturing Muammar Gaddafi's main compound in the Bab al-Aziziya district, but the country's elusive leader issued a defiant message to loyalists as he continued to evade capture.

The storming of Bab al-Aziziya appears to herald the de facto end of Gaddafi's 42-year-old rule, but with his whereabouts still unknown and his powerful sons unaccounted for, the rebels cannot declare victory.

Sniper fire and explosions also continued to threaten those inside the compound, according to Al Jazeera correspondents at the scene.

Gadaffi's men are hiding in forests and there are Gaddafi supporters in the district of Abu Selim.

Al Jazeera's Evan Hill, reporting from Gaddafi's compound, said sporadic gunfire, explosions and rocket fire could still be heard on Wednesday morning.

"We just left the Bab al-Aziziya after at least three rockets landed in the area. They got progressively closer. The first two overshot us and landed some distance behind; the third landed in the huge, grassy courtyard...," he said.

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Hill said there were hundreds of rebels throughout the compound heavily armed and with trucks mounted with machine guns and rockets.

Al Jazeera's Sue Turton, also reporting from inside the compound, said rebels were attempting to flush out snipers still inside the compound with heavy weaponry.

"We do think that the rebels really are in control of the majority of that compound, and are in control of the majority of this city, but at the moment all they can do is focus on these pockets of resistance," she said.

"As soon as you say the word 'sniper', it puts fear into people; people can't go about their businesses here. The streets are still pretty empty."

There were also reports of heavy gunfire coming from the area of the Rixos hotel in Tripoli, where dozens of international journalists are trapped, they are guarded by heavily armed Gaddafi loyalists, according to a Reuters reporter.

Rebels say at least 400 have been killed and 200 injured in the battle for Tripoli.

'Victory or death'

In audio remarks broadcast on Wednesday by the al-Rai television channel, Gaddafi called on Tripoli residents to repel the rebels' advance.

"All Libyans must be present in Tripoli, young men, tribal men and women must sweep through Tripoli and comb it for traitors," he said. "I have been out a bit in Tripoli discreetly, without being seen by people, and ... I did not feel that Tripoli was in danger."

 Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reports from Tripoli

Al-Rai quoted the Libyan leader as saying that he had retreated from his Tripoli compound in a "tactical move" after 64 NATO air strikes reduced it to rubble.

The channel broadcast an excerpt of the message in which Gaddafi vowed his forces would resist "the aggression with all strength" until either victory or death.

Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who heads the National Transitional Council (NTC) and was a minister in Gaddafi's government until the February uprising against his rule, cautioned: "It is too early to say that the battle of Tripoli is over. That won't happen until Gaddafi and his sons are captured."

Reports had circulated of Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, being captured by the rebels but he made a defiant public appearance on Tuesday, smiling and shaking hands with supporters. The whereabouts of five of Gaddafi's other sons is unknown.

'Looking for Gaddafi'

Rebels entered Gaddafi's compound after fighting for five hours with his loyalists outside, using mortars, heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.

They killed some of those who defended the compound and hauled off thousands of rifles, crates of weapons and trucks with guns mounted on the back.

"We're looking for Gaddafi now. We have to find him now," said Sohaib Nefati, a rebel sitting against a wall with a machine gun.

Abdel-Aziz Shafiya, a 19-year-old rebel dressed in camouflage with a rocket-propelled grenade slung over one shoulder and a machine gun over the other, said the rebels believed Gaddafi was inside the compound but hiding underground.

"Wasn't he the one who called us rats? Now he is the rat underground," he said.

'New Libya'

Senior officials within the rebels' ranks have said the country's transition "begins immediately" and that Qatar will host a meeting on Wednesday to organise $2.4bn in aid for the country.

"We will build a new Libya, with all Libyans as brothers for a united, civil and democratic nation," Mahmoud Jibril, the number two in the National Transitional Council, which runs areas of the country in rebels' hands, told a news conference in Qatar's capital, Doha.

In the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi, hundreds of miles east of Tripoli, the news of the Bab al-Aziziya storming was greeted with celebratory gunfire and firecrackers. Men drove around waving rebel flags.

Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's former deputy ambassador to the UN, said he expected the entire country would be in rebel hands within 72 hours.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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