Libya latest: Rebels take compound, Gaddafi missing

8AM UPDATE: Rebels have taken control Muammar Gaddafi's fortified Bab al-Azizya headquarters in Tripoli, ending his 42-year dictatorship.

Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year dictatorship is over and rebel forces have control of his power base, signalling that the battle for Tripoli may soon be over.

New developments:

• Tripoli residents pour on to streets as shooting stops
• Gaddafi said to be hiding underground
• Western governments move to free frozen assets
• Diplomats and rebels plan post-Gaddafi government

Streets around the Bab al-Aziziya compound rang with mortars, heavy machine-guns and anti-aircraft guns throughout much of the day as rebels took up positions around the symbolic heart of Colonel Gaddafi's regime.

By late afternoon, gunfire ceased and rebels and Tripoli residents poured on to the streets. Forces loyal to Gaddafi have continued to battle through Tripoli's densely populated neighbourhoods, attacking and defending patches of territory in the city of two million.

A senior Libyan diplomat in New York said he expected Gaddafi, his family members and other high officials to be in hiding in the city's underground tunnels — built by the Libyan leader for security purposes in recent years.

In Washington, a Pentagon official put the share of Tripoli controlled by the rebels at 90%. "The situation is fluid," Colonel David Lapan said.

Obama administration said it hoped within days to begin releasing some of the Gaddafi regime assets frozen since February. These total some $US37 billion and will be used to support Libyan government institutions and for reconstruction efforts.

In Dubai, US and UK diplomats huddled for another day with rebel representatives to put the finishing touches on a post-Gaddafi stability plan. Officials said the allies were advising the rebels on how to quickly restore basic government services and protect critical infrastructure, including oil assets.

Nato and European Union officials said while it was too early to declare victory in Libya, they had started talks on giving aid and unfreezing key Libyan assets in overseas banks. Switzerland has also said it would unfreeze assets held there in a long-running dispute with the Gaddafi regime.


6AM UPDATE: Rebels have overran Muammar Gaddafi’s fortified Bab al-Azizya headquarters in Tripoli after a day of heavy fighting, including bombing of the compound by Nato aircraft.

Latest developments:

• Rebels fight their way inside Gaddafi's Tripoli compound

• Gaddafi’s whereabouts unknown, though heir apparaent and son Saif al-Islam appeared after rebel claims he had been arrested

• Diplomat at the UN says he expects the entire country will be in rebel hands within 72 hours

Rebels have overran Muammar Gaddafi’s fortified Bab al-Azizya headquarters in Tripoli after a day of heavy fighting, including bombing of the compound by Nato aircraft.

The seizure marks a symbolic end to the dictator's 42-year regime.

The defenders have fled and there is no immediate word on the whereabouts of Gaddafi or his family.

"Rebels breached the surrounding cement walls and entered inside. They have taken Bab al-Azizya. Completely. It is finished," an AFP correspondent said.

The seizure of the compound sparked celebrations by the rebel fighters, who fired their weapons in the air before raiding the armoury and seizing ammunition, pistols and assault rifles.

"It is an incredible sight," the correspondent said, adding that the bodies of a number of apparent Gaddafi fighters were lying inside, as were wounded people.

Bab al-Azizya had been the site chosen very early Tuesday by Saif al-Islam, to make an appearance before journalists to refute reports that he had been arrested by the rebels.

"I am here to refute the lies," the 39-year-old said about reports of his arrest, and accused the West of waging a "technological and media war to cause chaos and terror in Libya."

In New York, Libya’s former deputy ambassador to the UN says he expects that the entire country will be in rebel hands within 72 hours.

Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, who with other diplomats has continued to work at the Libyan mission since disavowing Gaddafi in February, says he expects Libya will be “totally liberated.”


2PM UPDATE: Three correspondents in Tripoli say they have met Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam and that he is leading a fight-back against the rebels.

The reports, by an AFP reporter and two others, contradict earlier rebel-sourced claims that Saif and two others of the Libyan dictator’s sons had been detained by forces attacking pro-Gaddafi troops.

In new developments:
• Gaddafi's son and heir claims dictator still alive and in control
• Third son escapes from rebel custody

The journalists were taken to the heavily protected Bab al-Azizyah residential complex and said they saw Saif, who claimed his troops had "broken the back" of the rebels.

Saif claimed his father was still in the city, saying that "all is well" in Tripoli. Muammar Gaddafi has not been seen or heard of since an audio broadcast on Sunday night before the broadcasting studios were seized by rebels.

"I am here to refute the lies, Tripoli is under our control. Everyone should rest assured," Saif said.

Saif al-Islam arrived in a vehicle in front of the building complex, which was bombed by the Americans in 1986. He was greeted by several dozen supporters waving his portrait and that of his father, as well as Libyan flags.

Earlier on Monday, rebel forces arrested Saadi Gaddafi, the third son of Gaddafi, while the eldest son, Mohammad, escaped from custody.

Al Jazeera has reported that another son, military commander Khamis, may have been found along with that of powerful intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi. There are seven sons altogether.
Meanwhile, the whereabouts of Gaddafi senior, other relatives and senior Libyan officials remain unknown.

The witness accounts contradict claims by the head of the International Criminal Court that Saif been arrested and was in detention. __________________________________________________________

8AM UPDATE: Heavy fighting has been taking place in Tripoli around the compound of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after rebels seized control of much of the city.

Throughout the night, jubilant crowds remained in central Green Square, previously the scene of nightly pro-Gaddafi demonstrations.

A rebel spokesman said pro-Gaddafi forces still controlled 15-20% of Tripoli. The rebels also said they had captured Gaddafi's son and heir apparent Saif al-Islam. But there is no word of Gaddafi’s whereabouts.

Latest developments:
• US believes Gaddafi is still in Libya
• Obama says regime at an end
• Oil fields ‘remain functional’
• Heavy fighting in siege of dictator's compound
• Three of Gaddafi’s sons captured
• State television goes off air as headquarters are seized
• Libyan PM reported to have fled to Tunisia
• UK to unfreeze assets

Gaddafi’s whereabouts remain unknown but the White House said it had "no evidence" he had left the country. South African radio reported Angola had offered asylum but gave no details of how he would get there.

President Barack Obama said that "the situation is still very fluid" even while concluding that "the Gaddafi regime is coming to an end."

"There remains a degree of uncertainty and there are still regime elements who pose a threat. But this much is clear: the Gadhafi regime is coming to an end and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people."

Weatherford International chief executive Bernard Duroc-Danner said Libya's oilfields remain "quite functional" and that companies should have little trouble restarting production.

He said that the first step after six months of civil war will be for the country to establish a transitional government "with some order including a functional banking sector." Next, sanctions placed on the country by Western nations must be lifted.

Rebel forces surged into the city's centre on Sunday and initially met with little resistance. But by the afternoon and evening of Monday there were persistent reports of random shootings and some pockets of outright fighting.

Meanwhile, heavy clashes were reported at Gaddafi's Tripoli compound. Tanks emerged and opened fire at rebels trying to storm the compound.

Gaddafi’s son and onetime heir apparent Seif al-Islam has been captured. Along with his father, he faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands.

Reports said rebels had captured two other sons, Mohammed and Mustafa Abedel-Jalil. The head of the state-controlled radio and TV organisation, Abdullah Mansour, has also fled to Tunisia along with Prime Minister Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi.

Rebels have succeeded in taking control of the radio and TV buildings and shut down Libya's satellite TV channels.

In London, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said frozen Libyan assets would soon be released to help the country's rebels establish order, saying Gaddafi's regime was "falling apart and in full retreat."