Rebels celebrate after breaching Gaddafi compound

Reuters witnesses say rebels were firing shots in air inside compound; US says Gaddafi is still in Libya, rebels control most of Tripoli; rebels take Ras Lanuf oil port, no damages reported.

August 23, 2011 18:58
2 minute read.
Libyan rebels celebrate on outskirts of Tripoli

Libyan rebels celebrate 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Libyan rebels poured into Muammar Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli on Tuesday and were seen firing in the air in celebration, Reuters reporters on the scene said.

Pro-Gaddafi forces initially tried to defend the vast Bab al-Aziziya compound, the seat of Gaddafi's political power and the principal base of loyalists seeking to rescue his 42-year rule, but their resistance later ended, the reporters said.

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A column of black smoke rose over the compound as dozens of heavily armed rebels, along with some unarmed civilians, entered the complex cheering. A rebel tore a poster of Gaddafi while others tried to pull down a statue of a hand crushing a fighter jet.

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Rebels had said on Monday that the compound had been protected by tanks and snipers.

Chanting and car horns could be heard in the area in apparent celebration, according to live television broadcasts.

Rebel fighters streamed into Tripoli over the weekend in the final push of a six-month war to oust Gaddafi.

Gaddafi's whereabouts were unknown, though he has said in recent days over state television that he remains in Tripoli.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said that although the command capabilities of Gaddafi's forces had been diminished, they remained dangerous. He also said the United States was monitoring Libya's chemical weapons sites, amid concern in Congress that those weapons could fall into the wrong hands.

Also on Tuesday, Rebels in eastern Libya took control of the oil port of Ras Lanuf as soldiers loyal to Muammar Gaddafi retreated toward the leader's home town of Sirte, a rebel spokesman said.

Rebels appeared to be in the final phases of a six-month uprising aimed at ending Gaddafi's 42-year rule, having stormed his compound in Tripoli earlier on Tuesday, though Gaddafi's whereabouts remained a mystery.

"We have taken Ras Lanuf. They just ran until the Red Valley," rebel spokesman Mohammad Zawawi said, adding the Red Valley was in the direction of Sirte.

Zawawi said there was no damage to the oil facilities in Ras Lanuf and the only damage at Brega, taken by the rebels on Monday, was an oil storage tank that was on fire.

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