FIERCE fighting around the compound of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi continued today after rebels seized control of most of the country’s capital.
Overnight, triumphant crowds remained in Tripoli’s central Green Square, which had previously been the scene of nightly pro-Gaddafi demonstrations.
It was reported that rebels were met with little resistance, with a rebel spokesman stating pro-Gaddafi forces still control 15 to 20 per cent of the city.
The rebels have also claimed they captured Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam but no-one is able to confirm the colonel’s location.
Tanks emerged from Col Gaddafi’s Bab al-Azizia compound this morning and began firing, with gunfire continuing to be heard in the area.
Today, Western leaders have welcomed the rebel advance and urged Col Gaddafi to go.
David Cameron, who is cutting short his holiday to chair a meeting of the National Security Council, said in a statement: “It is clear from the scenes we are witnessing in Tripoli that the end is near for Gaddafi.
“He has committed appalling crimes against the people of Libya and he must go now to avoid any further suffering for his own people.”
U.S. President Barack Obama added: “The momentum against the Gaddafi regime has reached a tipping point. Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of a tyrant.”
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for Col Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and the head of the intelligence service, Abdullah al-Sanussi, for crimes against humanity.
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said he had been informed of Saif al-Islam’s arrest.
Another of Col Gaddafi’s sons, Mohammad, was speaking on the phone to al-Jazeera TV when he said the rebels were surrounding his home.
He later said rebels had entered his house, before the phone line cut off.
Fighters advanced 20 miles from the west with little resistance, overwhelming a military base and then pouring into Tripoli.
Although there were reports that fighting is continuing in some districts, cheering, clapping and celebratory shooting broke out in Green Square, the symbolic heart of the regime, as ecstatic Libyans waved the rebels’ tri-colour flag.
Others set fire to the green flag of Gaddafi’s regime.
Nour Eddin Shatouni, a resident who joined the celebrations, said: “Now we don’t call it the Green Square, but we call it Martyrs’ Square.”
Thousands also celebrated in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, and Libyans in Britain were said to be celebrating in London’s Edgware Road.
Gaddafi’s whereabouts where unknown, but Libyan information ministry spokesman Moussa Ibrahim insisted earlier that his loyalists would stand and fight, warning that they had nothing to lose.
He said that the rebels would not have been able to make the advances they had without the support of Nato and he accused the alliance of turning the city into a “hellfire”, with 1,300 killed in the fighting.
He issued an apparently-vain appeal for a ceasefire and insisted that there had to be a role for Gaddafi in the country or his supporters would be “easy prey for the hateful vengeful side”.