Tripoli erupted into celebratory gunfire after rebels stormed and captured Muammar Gaddafi’s heavily fortified compound, sending his troops fleeing and raising their flag in victory.
Not long after once-feared Bab al-Azizya fell on Tuesday, the insurgent commander in Tripoli, Abdel Hakim Belhaj, said we “won the battle” for Tripoli, and that Gaddafi and his cronies had “fled like rats.”
“The military battle is over now,” he said, adding that 90 per cent of Gaddafi’s compound at Bab al-Azizya “has been secured” with some pockets of resistance remaining.
From early in the day, the attention of Tripoli and the world was focused on the strongman’s headquarters in the massive walled compound in the centre of the capital after rebels launched a fierce assault on it.
The sky was filled with the sound of heavy and light machine guns, as well as mortars, with the overhead roar of NATO jets.
Even two kilometres away from the fighting, the almost constant whistle of bullets could be heard from the rooftops, as chants of “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) blared from mosque minarets.
Then the news broke.
First that the rebels had breached the walls, then that the compound had been captured.
An AFP correspondent at the scene said “they have taken Bab al-Azizya. Completely. It is finished.”
But the question on everybody’s mind had no answer.
Gaddafi was nowhere to be found.
“Bab al-Azizya is fully under our control now. Colonel Gaddafi and his sons were not there; there is nobody,” Colonel Ahmed Omar Bani said from the rebel bastion of Benghazi.
“No-one knows where they are,” he added.
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