Clashes at Gaddafi HQ as rebels take Tripoli

Jonathan Gray

Clashes broke out near Muammar Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli early today, a day after rebels poured into the Libyan capital in a stunning advance which met little resistance from the regime's defenders.

Rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdel-Rahman said government tanks emerged from the complex, known as Bab al-Aziziya, early today and opened fire.

A reporter at the nearby Rixos Hotel where foreign journalists stay could hear gunfire and loud explosions from the direction of the complex.

Tripoli resident Moammar al-Warfali, whose family home is next to Bab al-Aziziya, said tanks rolled out in the early morning after a group of rebels tried to get in.

He said there appeared to be only a few tanks belonging to the remaining Gaddafi forces which have not fled or surrendered.

Bab al-Aziziya, a sprawling compound that has long served as the command centre for the regime, has been heavily damaged by repeated Nato air strikes over the past five months, Mr al-Warfali said.

"When I climb the stairs and look at it from the roof, I see nothing at Bab al-Aziziya," he said. "Nato has demolished it all and nothing remains."

The rebels seized control of most of Tripoli in a lightning advance yesterday, and euphoric residents celebrated in the capital's Green Square, the symbolic heart of the Gaddafi regime.

Mr Abdel-Rahman, who is in Tripoli with rebel forces, cautioned that Gaddafi troops still pose a threat to rebels, and that as long as Gaddafi remained on the run the "danger is still there".

The rebel breakthrough, after a long deadlock in Libya's six-month-old civil war, was the culmination of a closely co-ordinated plan by rebels, Nato and anti-Gaddafi residents inside Tripoli, rebel leaders said.