Libya unrest: Rebels overrun Gaddafi Tripoli compound

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tripoli: "The city erupted in gunfire"

Libyan rebels have taken control of Col Muammar Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli, one of the final areas that remained under his control.

TV footage showed fighters breaking off the head of a statue of the Libyan leader and kicking it along the ground. They also seized items from his home.

It is not known if Col Gaddafi or any of his family are inside the compound.

Rebel leaders say they are in control of almost all of the capital, though there are still pockets of resistance.

'Fled like rats'

Heavily armed fighters had streamed into the capital on Tuesday morning in dozens of pick-up trucks to take part in the attack on Bab al-Aziziya.

At the scene

There are scenes of absolute chaos here - the streets are absolutely packed with people celebrating. I have just seen a man tying a huge gold picture of Col Gaddafi to his car to drag through the city. Automatic weapons and anti-aircraft guns are being fired. Much of it is celebratory, but I was told by one rebel that there was still some fighting.

This is a symbolic moment for many people because Col Gaddafi has always been removed from his people; he has been locked away in his compound. Now, people are inside his house and are tearing it up.

It is unclear if any members of the Gaddafi family are still here. I suspect they are not, because it is the one place they know the people of Tripoli would tear to shreds.

After five hours of intense fighting, they breached one of the main gates and then quickly overran the compound.

The rebels were shown destroying statues - including the iconic giant golden hand crushing a US fighter jet - firing guns in the air in celebration, and seizing weapons and ammunition from arms depots.

Col Gaddafi's Bedouin tent, where he used to receive visiting foreign dignitaries, was set on fire, while his golf cart, in which he appeared frequently, was paraded around the compound.

There were no obvious signs of resistance in the compound by Tuesday evening, despite reports that hundreds of Gaddafi loyalists had been tasked with guarding it.

"We have won the battle," Abdul Hakim Belhaj, the top rebel commander in Tripoli, told al-Jazeera. "They fled like rats."

"We entered the tyrant's offices, his rooms, we searched everywhere, but there was no-one."

'Vicious bombing continues'

However, there are still pockets of resistance in the capital, including the Abu Salim and al-Hadba districts, and near the Hotel Rixos, where many foreign journalists are staying.

The BBC's Rana Jawad in Tripoli says there is a real sense that this is the end of Col Gaddafi's rule, but the proper celebrations will not begin until he and his family are found.

Gaddafi's Compound

  • Called Bab al-Aziziya, which means Splendid Gate in Arabic
  • Stretches over 6 sq km (2.3 sq miles) of Tripoli
  • Bombed by US in 1986 in retaliation for alleged murder of American troops in Berlin
  • Giant sculpture of a gold clenched fist crushing a US warplane commemorates 1986 attack
  • Allegedly linked to the sea by underground tunnels

It is not known if they were in Bab al-Aziziya on Tuesday, but the complex is reported to be connected by underground tunnels to various key locations across the city.

The Gaddafi family are also believed to have access to numerous safe houses in Tripoli and beyond.

The situation is unclear in the colonel's hometown of Sirte, which has been a stronghold of regime loyalists. Reports said retreating government troops were heading there.

And rebel leader Mahmoud Jibril, currently in Qatar, warned that there were still places that needed urgent help, such as the southern city of Sebha which is home to many members of Col Gaddafi's tribe.

"Today, the atrocious Gaddafi's brigades continued to bomb Sebha city viciously," said Mr Jibril, who is considered as prime minister of the interim rebel government, the National Transitional Council (NTC).

"In the next stage, we must extend a helping hand and support to all the cities that have not yet risen, so as to rise and to join the procession of glory."

Libya map

Members of the NTC, which has so far been based in the eastern city of Benghazi, said they planned to fly to Tripoli on Wednesday to start work on forming a new government.

Meanwhile, the US state department said the US would seek to release between $1bn and $1.5bn (£600m and £900m) in frozen Libyan funds in the coming days, and hand the money to the NTC.

The rebels swept into Tripoli at the weekend, but after a swift advance they met stiff resistance in a number of areas on Monday.

The uprising against Col Gaddafi's 41-year rule began in February. The rebels held the east of the country and pockets of the west, before making their push towards the capital at the weekend.

Nato air strikes have been targeting Col Gaddafi's forces, acting on a UN mandate to protect civilians.

Are you in any of the areas affected by the fighting? Send us your comments and experiences using the form below.

Send your pictures and videos to yourpics@bbc.co.uk or text them to 61124 (UK) or +44 7624 800 100 (International). If you have a large file you can upload here.

Read the terms and conditions

If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.

Terms and conditions

More on This Story

More Africa stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.