Rebels Overrun Gadhafi Compound
Fierce Street Fighting in Tripoli; Leader's Whereabouts Are Unknown
Forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi battled through Tripoli's densely populated neighborhoods, attacking and defending patches of territory across the sprawling, and seemingly divided, capital.
News reports said hundreds of rebels stormed Col. Gadhafi's main military compound in Tripoli.
An Associated Press reporter saw the rebels enter the gates of the Bab al-Aziziya after hours of fierce gun battles. Col. Gadhafi's whereabouts were unknown after the insurgents breached the compound.
Military officials said the U.S. believes the rebels control most of Tripoli but that the exact percentage under their control is unclear and is changing by the hour.
The reappearance of Col. Gadhafi's son marks a major public relations debacle for the rebel leadership, who disseminated news of his arrest to Western allies. It remains unclear whether Seif el-Islam was apprehended and then escaped, or whether the rebels' facts were never confirmed. Videos of Seif el-Islam giving morale-boosting speeches to groups of armed men, apparently filmed Monday night, buzzed across Libyan-centered social media sites on Tuesday, adding to the embarrassment of the Benghazi leadership.
Rebels and forces loyal to the Libyan leader waged fierce street battles Tuesday, the AP reported, a day after opposition fighters swept into the capital with relative ease and claimed to have most of it under their control.
A NATO spokesman said what is left of Col. Gadhafi's forces has shown "no sign of giving up their aggressive actions."
"The tensions are far from being over. The situation is dynamic and complex," said Col. Roland Lavoie.
While it is unclear how many Gadhafi loyalists are left in the capital, those fighting in the streets are most likely the ideologically honed irregular forces that the leader has used to quell internal dissent and protect his regime for years. Residents say these government militias are conducting the fighting, along with members of Col. Gadhafi's elite military units that appear to be regrouping in Tripoli. The loyalists are now squaring off with hastily trained fighters from Tripoli's far-flung districts who fled the capital earlier this year and have been recruited as part of the rebel vanguard to take the capital.
The rebels started organizing the so-called Tripoli Brigades in early June, choosing men with strong family and social ties from the city and then training them in the remote Western Mountains, located some 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the capital.
When Zawiya, the coastal city 30 miles east of Tripoli, fell earlier this month, the Tripoli Brigades were deployed forward to a town closer to the capital, where they nervously awaited the orders to attack. Those orders came on Sunday, with Tripoli's Qaqaa Brigade spearheading the assault from Zawiya. Mr. Sbeaa's brigade saw action the following morning, pushing into the capital through the southern suburb of Azzizziya to establish a bridge head for the rebel forces in central Tripoli. But within 90 minutes of setting up that new headquarters, they came under attack and had to relocate. By Tuesday morning, violent battles were engulfing Tripoli, in what many predict will be a drawn out protracted and bloody struggle.
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