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23 Aug, 2011 13:00

Rebels raise flag over Gaddafi compound

Hundreds of rebels have entered Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli after heavy fighting with loyal forces. Meanwhile, Gaddafi’s whereabouts remain unknown.

The rebels claim to have toppled Gaddafi after 42 years of rule and have hoisted their flag to mark the symbolic end to the regime. Fighters are celebrating by firing automatic weapons into the air, chanting blessings to God and raiding the armoury for pistols and rifles.A group of fighters tried to tear down a statue of a gold fist holding a jet which Gaddafi used as backdrop for his speeches.Rebel sources have told Al Jazeera they have entered Colonel Gaddafi’s house, raised their flag over it and now control the entire complex. The claims have not yet been verified. Sources on the ground say that NATO jets struck at watchtowers, walls and other buildings in the Bab al-Aziziya complex earlier in the day, reports the Daily Telegraph.NATO could not confirm that it has launched an air strike against the compound, but acknowledged that their aircraft were operating over Tripoli on Tuesday.The Libyan opposition forces now claim to be in control of about 93 per cent of Tripoli, says Al Arabiya news channel.

Stephen Lendman, American author and radio host, who covers events in Libya, described the situation in Tripoli “as chaotic, fast-moving and violent.”

It is believed the fresh shooting in Tripoli has been inspired by the appearance in front of the loyalist public of one of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's sons, Saif al Islam, who yesterday had been reported as captured by loyalist forces. Gaddafi's son rallied with supporters and disclaimed most of the rebels’ victory claims, insisting Tripoli remains under the government’s control.The sky above the city of two million people is clouded with columns of white and black smoke rising from the ground. The ground is shaking with explosions, mainly from those of bombs dropped by NATO air force supporting the rebels. NATO-member leaders have persistently demanded that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi step down and smoothly transfer power to the rebels’ National Transitional Council, but the British MP David Cameron has already stated that the very life of the colonel will depend on the goodwill of his opponents, who have openly been calling for his head over the last half-year of civil war.

Muammar Gaddafi’s whereabouts are still a matter of speculation. Saif al Islam claimed during his appearance at Rixos Hotel that the Colonel is still in Tripoli.But NATO said on Tuesday it does not know where Gaddafi is. The bloc also played down the Libyan leader’s importance in the conflict in the North African country, saying “he is not a key player anymore.”Moreover, Gaddafi’s leaving the country will not interrupt NATO operations in the country, as the bloc’s mission is to protect civilians, added Colonel Roland Lavoie, NATO’s spokesman.Meanwhile, World Chess Federation chief Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said he has spoken to Gaddafi on Tuesday afternoon. "I am alive and healthy, I am in Tripoli and do not intend to leave Libya,” Ilyumzhinov quoted the Libyan leader as saying.

On Tuesday five more countries have recognized the NTC as Libya’s legitimate representative. Iraq, Morocco, Bahrain, Oman and Nigeria joined dozens of other countries in recognizing the rebels’ interim government. Now there are more than 30 states that recognize the NTC.

Gaddafi to win hide and seek?

Gaddafi is still in Tripoli, believes Dr. Gunter Mulack, director of the German Orient-Institute based in Berlin. However, Dr. Mulack is sure the Libyan leader must have “an emergency exit from his bunker system and can escape.”But where could Gaddafi go if he decides to leave Libya?“I don’t think that the Algerians will take him, the Tunisians will definitely not,” Dr. Gunter Mulack told RT. “He might go to the south and take a plane from there to Zimbabwe, to North Korea, or to one of the very few countries where he would be still accepted. It might take some time to discover him even if he stays in his own country.”

Journalist Richard Spencer says there is another war going on in Libya, and that's between the rebels for who will be in charge after the Gaddafi regime falls.“I think what the US has accomplished is to establish a coming civil war in Libya, which we have financed. We would have trained a number of people who will be killing one another,” he said. “We should not be naïve children and think that these rebels are nice little folks who want democracy and freedom and Macdonald’s. This is clearly a chance for them to gain power, to maybe enact some revenge against an old enemy, but mainly for them to be in control. They are going to be fighting with each other for control for the next months and years.”