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Rebels attack Gaddafi stronghold

Around 1,000 rebels have attacked buildings in Muammar Gaddafi's last major stronghold in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

The rebels bombarded buildings in Abu Salim with gunfire and grenades as Gaddafi's forces responded with mortars and dynamite.

Reporters at the scene said deafening explosions filled the air as black smoke poured from burning buildings.

The neighbourhood, which is next to the Libyan leader's captured compound, is thought to be the last major hotbed of regime fighters in Tripoli but after hours of fierce fighting, Associated Press reporters said the rebels were making progress and pushing Gaddafi's troops out.

Mahmoud Bakoush, a rebel commander at the site, said there are rumours that one of Gaddafi's sons might be in the buildings, but they are unconfirmed.

As the fighting continued, Gaddafi sent a new message calling on Libyans to kill the rebels. "Don't leave Tripoli for the rats. Fight them, fight them, and kill them," Gaddafi said in an audio message broadcast on Al-Arabiya television.

Gaddafi's spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the dictator was still in Libya and his morale was high. Ibrahim added that Gaddafi "is indeed leading the battle for our freedom and independence".

Ibrahim refused to reveal where Gaddafi was hiding but said that he himself was in an undisclosed location in Libya and constantly on the move. "All of the leader's family are fine," Ibrahim told the Associated Press, adding that top military and political aides remained with Gaddafi.

Meanwhile, a member of Libya's rebel cabinet said it is moving immediately to Tripoli from its eastern stronghold city of Benghazi, as opponents of Gaddafi solidify their control over the capital they overran four days ago.

Ali Tarhouni made the announcement at a press conference in Tripoli. He is the finance minister in the rebels' National Transitional Council.

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