Gaddafi’s influential son appears with supporters in Tripoli, disproving opposition claims that he had been captured.
|Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr reports from Gaddafi’s fallen compound in Tripoli|
Libyan rebels have overrun the fortified compound of Muammar Gaddafi in Bab al-Azizya in the capital, Tripoli, following intense fighting with forces loyal to the Libyan leader.
The rebels “broke through the gates of Bab al-Azizya [and] some opposition fighters managed to enter the government’s stronghold in the Libyan capital,” Al Jazeera’s correspondent Zeina Khodr said, reporting from the compound on Tuesday.
As celebratory gunfire rang out, there were reports that the compound armoury was being looted.
A rebel supporter was seen kicking around a broken sculpture of Gaddafi.
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A local Tripoli radio station reported Gaddafi as saying that his withdrawal from his headquarters was a “tactical move after the compound was levelled by 64 NATO air strikes”.
What was put out by the radio station was also reported by Al-Orouba TV broadcasting in conjunction with Al-Rai TV.
The report said Gaddafi vowed “martyrdom” or victory in his fight against NATO.
Moussa Ibrahim, a spokesman for Gaddafi, later said the Libyan leader was ready to resist rebels for months, or even years, and vowed to turn Libya into “volcanoes, lava and fire”.
Speaking by telephone to Al-Orouba and al-Rai, Ibrahim said that Gaddafi’s forces had captured four “high ranking” Qataris and one United Arab Emirates national, and said that rebel leaders would not enjoy peace if they moved to Tripoli from the eastern city of Benghazi.
Meanwhile, the head of the rebel council said that 400 people were killed and 2,000 wounded in three days of fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Gaddafi in the Libyan capital.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council, told France 24 television that some 600 pro-Gaddafi fighters had been captured but the battle would not be over until the Libyan leader himself was a prisoner.
Fighting continued across the capital with the sound of gunfire and occasional explosions ringing out.
Apart from Bab al-Azizya, the rebels also seized control of the Abu Salim neighbourhood of Tripoli late on Tuesday, a senior spokesman said, referring to one of Gaddafi’s main bastions of support in the Libyan capital.
The Libyan leader’s whereabouts are still unknown, but according to the head of the World Chess Federation, Gaddafi is “alive and healthy, and has no plans to leave Libya”.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said he spoke to Gaddafi by telephone on Tuesday who said to him, “do not believe the lying reports by Western television companies”.
But there is speculation he could be granted asylum in Zimbabwe should he choose to leave Libya as he has cordial relations with the Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
Jonathan Kadzura, a poltical analyst from Zimbabwe, dismisses the idea of Gaddafi fleeing to Zimbabwe.
“There is no way anybody in their sober minds would be entertaining anything like that because he is not going to leave Libya,” said Kadzura to Al Jazeera.
Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said that the events of Tuesday were “significant”.
Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr reports from Tripoli
“In a way the Libyan people broke the chains that have held them down for four decades … today there is a future without Gaddafi, a future they can make for themselves.
“After what we have seen today, after what Mahmoud Jibril (a leader of the rebel National Transitional Council) said, and the international recognition of NTC as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people, it means that Gaddafi is now just a sought after criminal. The idea of Gaddafi as ‘the Libyan leader’, is over.
Meanwhile, 30 journalists remained holed up in Tripoli’s Rixos hotel on Tuesday. Journalists from the BBC, CNN and other international news organisations were reported to be stuck inside the hotel with no electricity and described the hotel as a “prison”.
Fighting on other fronts
Gaddafi forces fired several Scud missiles from the regime’s bastion of Sirte at rebel-held Misrata further up the coast late on Tuesday, a rebel source said.
“Scuds launched from Sirte towards Misrata, loud explosions heard,” the media centre of the Misrata military council said in a statement.
There were also reports of Gaddafi’s fighters attacking the town of Ajelat, west of Tripoli, with missiles and tanks.
Rebels in eastern Libya, in the meantime, advanced towards the oil terminal of Ras Lanuf after taking the coastal town of Ageila from Gaddafi forces.