Cairo, Aug 22: Muammar Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya uninterrupted for 42 years remained elusive as rebel forces swept into his capital Tripoli with reports suggesting that the dictator had fled to neighbouring Algeria or could be holed-up in a bunker to attempt a last stand.
With rebels reported in occupation of 95 per cent of the capital except Gaddafi’s command and control centre Bab al-Aziziya, speculation was rife about the whereabouts of Gaddafi.
A rebel spokesman claimed that Gaddafi and some of his family members were spotted making a dash towards Algeria, while Al-arabiya quoting its correspondent in the Libyan capital said that Gaddafi was in the Tajura-Cardiac hospital.
But said there were no reports on whether Gaddafi was undergoing treatment in the hospital or simply taking refuge.
But diplomatic sources quoted by BBC reported that the Libyan strongman was in Tripoli in his Bab al-Aziziya command and control centre.
The Bab al-Aziziya compound has been regularly pounded by NATO airstrikes and most of the buildings in the compound have been flattened.
Rebel sources said that Gaddafi had constructed a number of deep bunkers in the complex where he could take cover.
But the rebels vowed that “Gaddafi would be hunted down”.
“We will leave no stone unturned to trace the tyrant and make him face trial,” rebels commander told Al-jazeera.
While there was a big question mark about Gaddafi, Al-jazeera reported that his all powerful brother-in-law and intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi had been killed.
Al-jazeera also said that Gaddafi’s favourite son Saif al-Islam, who along with his father faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands had been captured and was safe.
The Qatar based Arab news channel reported that two other sons of Gaddafi, Mohammad and Saadi, have been captured. Mohammad Gaddafi was captured in dramatic circumstances while giving an interview to Al-jazeera.
Clashes broke out early today at Gadhafi’s longtime command center known as Bab al-Aziziya early Monday when government tanks emerged from the complex and opened fire at rebels trying to get in, according to Abdel-Rahman and a neighbor.
An AP reporter at the nearby Rixos Hotel where foreign journalists stay could hear gunfire and loud explosions from the direction of the complex.
Tripoli resident Moammar al-Warfali, whose family home is next to the compound, said there appeared to be only a few tanks belonging to the remaining Gadhafi forces that have not fled or surrendered.
“When I climb the stairs and look at it from the roof, I see nothing at Bab al-Aziziya,” he said. “NATO has demolished it all and nothing remains.” The Rixos also remained under the control of Gadhafi forces, with two trucks loaded with anti-aircraft machine guns and pro-regime fighters and snipers posted behind trees.
Rebels and Tripoli residents set up checkpoints elsewhere in the city.
The rebels’ top diplomat in London, Mahmud Nacua, said clashes were continuing in Tripoli, but opposition forces controlled 95 per cent of the city. He vowed Gadhafi would be found, saying “the fighters will turn over every stone to find him” and make sure he faced justice.
A rebel field commander said reinforcements were arriving at Tripoli by sea from the north as well as the south and the southeast.
“Our fighters are coming from all directions and, God willing, today we will liberate the whole city,” the commander, Suleiman Sifaw, told The Associated Press.
State TV broadcast bitter audio pleas by Gadhafi for Libyans to defend his regime as the rebels advanced on Sunday.
Opposition fighters captured his son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, who along with his father faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands.
Another son was under house arrest.
Rebel chief Mustafa Abdel-Jalil vowed Monday to give Gadhafi a “fair trial with all legal guarantees” when captured.
“It’s over, frizz-head,” chanted hundreds of jubilant men and women massed in Green Square late Sunday, using a mocking nickname of the curly-haired Gadhafi. The revelers fired shots in the air, clapped and waved the rebels” tricolor flag. Some set fire to the green flag of Gadhafi’s regime and shot holes in a poster with the leader’s image.