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Today we will finish it, say Libyan rebels closing in on Gaddafi

Libyan rebels have laid siege to a block of apartments in Tripoli in which they believe Colonel Gaddafi and his sons is hiding.

"They are together. They are in a small hole," one of the 1,000 fighters at the complex, Muhammad Gomaa, told Reuters. "Today we finish. Today we will end that."

A defiant Gaddafi, however, issued a message calling on supporters to "fight and kill" the rebels who now control large parts of the Libyan capital.

In an audio message broadcast on Al-Arabiya television, Gaddafi said: "Don't leave Tripoli for the rats. Fight them, fight them, and kill them."

He went on to call tribes outside the capital "to continue their march to Tripoli, the imams and youths in the mosques should rise up for jihad. They (the rebels) will enter your houses and deprive you of your honour. Nato can't remain in the air all the time."

Last night, a member of Libya's rebel cabinet - finance minister Ali Tarhouni - said it is moving immediately to Tripoli from its eastern stronghold city of Benghazi, as opponents of Gaddafi solidify their control over Tripoli.

The apartments now suspected of housing Gaddafi and taking heavy fire are a few hundred metres to the south of Gaddafi's Bab al-Azizia compound, which has now been overrun by rebels.

It had been suspected earlier that the tyrant was hiding in a secret network of underground tunnels, the very existence of which was until recently no more than rumour.

A reporter from the Daily Telegraph who explored them yesterday wrote that the tunnels were wide enough to accommodate vehicles - and indeed, the rebels had found golf buggies lying abandoned.

Like some cliched evil dictator from a Bond film, one of the lair's entrances opened beside a statue of a bronze fist crushing a US fighter jet.

The bomb-proof bunkers contained hi-tech communications equipment, telephones, documents, weapons, gas masks and enough food and water to keep those hiding alive for weeks.

The tunnel network could be vast, although progress exploring it will be slow, as rebels suspect booby-traps may lie in wait for them.

Rumours suggest it could stretch to the coast, airport, the Rixos hotel - where journalists were housed for the early days of the conflict - and other parts of Tripoli.

Gaddafi's home town of Sirte was bombed by Nato planes last night, as the rebels prepared an assault.

They were said by officials in Benghazi to be negotiating with tribal leaders to enter the city peacefully.

"The issue of Sirte is complicated," the rebel Transitional National Council's (TNC) defence spokesman, Colonel Ahmed Bani, told media. "The power has been cut off so that the residents don't know what's going on."

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