- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Libyan rebels breached Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s fortified military compound in Tripoli after a fierce firefight Tuesday evening but found no sign of the dictator or his family.

“We are in! This is the end of the regime,” Mohamed, a rebel spokesman who gave only his first name, told The Washington Times.

Hours after the battle, a pro-Gadhafi TV channel quoted him as saying he retreated from his Tripoli compound in a “tactical move” after 64 NATO airstrikes turned it to rubble.

Al-Rai TV said Wednesday it would air the comments in full and reported an excerpt in which the leader of Libya’s unraveling regime vowed his forces would resist “the aggression with all strength” until either victory or death.

Residents in the neighborhood said heavy fighting at the compound had given way to wild festivities. Celebratory gunfire crackled inside the compound, Bab al-Aziziya, and neighbors saw smoke billowing over the area.

“The regime is falling. You will hear the good news soon. It’s just a matter of hours,” Mohamed said.

About 2,000 reinforcements joined the rebels who first surrounded Bab al-Aziziya on Sunday, he added.

A woman who lives near the compound said loyalist forces and rebels had been engaged in a fierce battle before rebels poured into the compound. She declined to give her name out of concern for her safety.

Gadhafi loyalists still control some parts of the capital, and firefights erupted outside the Rixos Hotel where the regime has detained foreign journalists.

Col. Gadhafi, his family and members of the regime’s inner circle lived in Bab al-Aziziya. People familiar with the compound described it as a maze of high walls.

TV footage showed rebels firing multiple rounds of celebratory gunfire in the compound. They stamped and beat a bust of Col. Gadhafi and attacked a large statue of a fist crushing a U.S. jet.

The statue was a symbol of the dictator’s defiance, erected in front of a building severely damaged when U.S. jets bombed the compound in 1986 in retaliation for Libya’s bombing of a West German disco that killed two American soldiers.

Rebels looted arms and ammunition from depots inside the compound. One was seen on Sky TV wearing a military cap and chain belonging to Col. Gadhafi.

The streets inside the compound were littered with rocks, and the walls were pockmarked by bullets.

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