After intense fighting with forces supporting Muammar el-Gaddafi, the Libyan rebel forces have taken control of his Bab al-Azizya compound in Tripoli. TV footage shows the rebels tearing down an iconic statue of a golden fist crushing a US fighter jet and breaking off the head of a Gaddafi statue. Al Jazeera reports that the rebel forces say they are in control of 90 percent of the compound; there have been reports of looting in the compound’s armory. Among other items, the rebels have seized Gaddafi’s golf cart: In February, he appeared on Libyan state television sitting in the cart to disavow rumors he was in Venezuela. He also stepped into his cart after his defiant “zenga zenga” speech last month and then drove off.
“Zenga” means “alleyway” in Arabic; Gaddafi’s use of the phrase “zenga zenga” had referred to his claiming to trace down the opposition from alleyway to alleyway. Here’s the rebels taking Gaddafi’s golf cart:
It is not clear if Gaddafi or his family are in the compound — which is 2.3 square miles in area — and his whereabouts remain unknown. The Bab al-Aziziya complex was Gaddafi’s main residence, also housing a library and government offices; it is said to contain a maze of underground tunnels that lead to key locations throughout Tripoli. The BBC‘s Paul Danahar suggests it is unlikely that Gaddafi and his family are in the compound as “it is the one place they know the people of Tripoli would tear to shreds.”
Fierce fighting has continued in different neighborhoods of the city with Al Jazeera‘s James Bays saying that “The battle is certainly not over. The city is on a knife edge.” NATO planes are said to be seen flying low above the Bab al-Azizya compound.
The Libyan rebels say they control about 80 percent of Tripoli while Gaddafi’s government spokesperon Moussa Ibrahim says it controls about 75 percent. While the rebels met little resistance on entering Tripoli on Sunday, “accusations, doubts, and confusion” have arisen about the rebels’ claims after Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam appeared at the Rixos Hotel where journalists are staying on Tuesday night. The rebels’ National Transitional Council had said that Seif had been captured; as Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland comments,
“It is going to be interesting to see how the NTC explains this debacle and how it seeks to reinforce and strengthen these alliances and enable the rebels to get to Tripoli itself.”
While rebel troops have been firing guns in celebration of taking Gaddafi’s complex, the tough questions remain. As Former British Army Colonel Richard Kemp wrote on Twitter, if the rebels become the ruling authority in Libya,
The US is seeking to release between $1 to $1.5 billion in frozen Libyan funds to give to the rebels in the coming days; questions remain about how these funds might be used. The National Transitional Council has said it plans to start forming a new government on Wednesday. NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil has said Gaddafi and members of his regime would face justice and fair trials and has called for the rebels to be tolerant. “There should be no settling of scores,” he said.
A London law firm has taken on Gaddafi as a client, says the Guardian and is defending its decision, noting that “entitled to legal representation.”
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Aerial view of the Bab al-Azizya compound by Mick Roche