Scattered battles flare across Tripoli

While opposition fighters claimed they had most of Tripoli under control, a defiant Gadhafi in hiding vowed in a recorded statement to fight on "until victory or martyrdom."

Few civilians were willing to venture outside. The streets of the city were scattered with debris, broken glass, garbage and other remnants of fighting, while rebels manned checkpoints every few hundred yards.

But intense clashes broke out in the Abu Salim neighborhood next to Gaddafi's vast Bab al-Aziziya compound. Gadhafi loyalists inside Abu Salim were also firing into the captured compound. Abu Salim is home to a notorious prison and thought to be one of the regime's final strongholds.

Rebels found no sign of Gadhafi after a battle yesterday for Bab al-Aziziya, but rumors churned through the city about his possible whereabouts.

While the conquest effectively signalled the end of the regime, the rebels know they will face pockets of stiff resistance for some time to come and that they cannot really proclaim victory until Gadhafi is found.

Col. Ahmed Bani, a rebel spokesman, said rebels were offering amnesty to anybody who killed or captured Gadhafi. "The biggest prize is to offer amnesty, not to give money," he said.

Gaddafi's foreign minister told British broadcaster Channel 4 that the longtime dictator had exhausted all his options and his rule "was over." Although it was once thought possible that Gadhafi would get safe passage out of Libya, al-Obeidi said that was now unlikely.

"Now I'm not in touch with anybody, so it looks like things have passed this kind of solution," he said.

Rebel fighters, who by Wednesday afternoon appeared to control most but not all of Bab al-Aziziya, were using the compound as staging area for their operations, loading huge trucks with ammunition and discussing deployments.

But their movements inside the compound were repeatedly disrupted today by loyalist attacks, with pro-Gaddafi snipers firing on the fighters from tall buildings in Abu Salim.
"There are also civilians in those buildings who support Gadhafi and they too are firing on us," said Mohammed Amin, a rebel fighter.

He said the rebels have surrounded Abu Salim, but have been unable to push into it. Amin said one rebel had been killed in the area Wednesday morning and four more were captured by pro-Gadhafi soldiers.

The rebels claim they control the Tripoli airport but are still clashing with Gadhafi forces in the streets around it. AP reporters said the road leading to the airport was closed because of heavy fire by pro-regime snipers.

Khalil Mabrouk, a 37-year-old rebel, said he had just come from the airport and the rebels have been inside since Monday. Most of the airport was cleared of Gadhafi troops, he said, but pro-Gadhafi's forces to the south were firing rockets and shelling rebel positions inside.

Meanwhile, dozens of foreign journalists were released today after being held captive for days by pro-government gunmen at Tripoli's once-luxurious Rixos Hotel, which is next to Abu Salim. A steady barrage of machine gunfire and heavy weapons could be heard in the surrounding area, including in a large wooded park behind the hotel. 


Elsewhere in the city, streets were deserted except for the from rebel checkpoints, where fighters looked for Gaddafi supporters and checked the trunks of cars for weapons.

At one checkpoint, a picture of Gaddafi, once ubiquitous throughout the city, had been laid on the ground so cars had to drive over it.

Many buildings were covered in the pro-rebel graffiti that has appeared over the last few days.

Trash, already a problem in the waning months of Gadhafi's rule, now covers many streets and sidewalks. The shredded remains of Gadhafi's green flags were also scattered across the city.

Inside Gaddafi's compound, two young rebel fighters searched through a heap of pill packages in a building they said had served as a pharmacy.

A broken TV, its screen shattered, lay on the ground in the courtyard. Debris littered the ground. A dozen young fighters posed for pictures next to a gold-colored statue of a clenched fist squeezing a plane a memorial to the 1986 US airstrikes on the compound in retaliation for a bombing at a German disco frequented by US servicemen.

"The blood of our martyrs will not be spilled in vain," the fighters chanted, pumping their fists.

Even as his 42-year-old regime was crumbling around him, Gadhafi vowed not to surrender. In an audio message early today, he called on residents of the Libyan capital and loyal tribesmen to free Tripoli from the "devils and traitors" who have overrun it.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get the top news in your inbox
GET IT
Comments (+)