Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Rebels storm Gaddafi's stronghold

Rebel fighters stand with their feet upon the head of a statue of Muammar Gaddafi after the storming of his Tripoli compound (AP)
Rebel fighters stand with their feet upon the head of a statue of Muammar Gaddafi after the storming of his Tripoli compound (AP)
People in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi celebrate the attack on Muammar Gadhafi's main military compound in Tripoli (AP)
TV footage shows rebel fighters atop a symbolic statue of a fist clutching a US aircraft after storming Muammar Gaddafi's Tripoli compound (AP)

Hundreds of Libyan rebels have stormed Muammar Gaddafi's main military compound in Tripoli.

They poured through the gates of the Bab al-Aziziya after hours of fierce gun battles.

The sprawling complex, heavily damaged by Nato airstrikes, is the most defining symbol of Gaddafi's nearly 42-year rule and its fall, a day after the rebels swept into the Libyan capital with stunning speed, comes as the opposition faced pockets of resistance and fighting rocked the capital.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene said the compound's green gates were blasted open and hundreds of rebels were pouring into the complex, some driving golf carts as the area resounded with celebratory gunfire.

It was not immediately clear whether Gaddafi or members of his immediate family were in the compound when it was breached by the rebels, but the ferocity of the battle led many to speculate that the maverick leader may have been inside.

The battle for Bab al-Azizya, in which mortars, heavy machine-guns and anti-aircraft guns were used, came hours after Gaddafi's son and heir apparent, Saif al-Islam, turned up free to disprove Libyan rebel claims he had been captured and rally supporters.

His surprise appearance underlined the potential for Gaddafi to strike back even as his grip on power seemed to be slipping fast.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the Russian head of the World Chess Federation who has known Gaddafi for year, also said he spoke Tuesday by telephone with Gaddafi and the Libyan leader remains in Tripoli.

Ilyumzhinov, who was received by Gaddafi in Libya in July, said that Gaddafi called him at around 6pm Moscow time (1500 BST) and told him that he was "alive and well and still in Tripoli."

Gaddafi's former right-hand man Abdel-Salam Jalloud told Al-Jazeera television that he thought the Libyan leader was moving around the outskirts of Tripoli, taking shelter at private homes, small hotels and mosques. Jalloud defected this month.

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz