Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi hit back at rebels in Tripoli today launching repeated attacks on the sprawling government compound captured a day earlier.
They also cut off the road to the airport and fired at motorists near the capital’s port.
However the opposition fighters claimed they now control most of the city. Streets were largely deserted, scattered with debris, broken glass and other remnants of fighting, while rebels manned checkpoints every few hundred yards.
But there were intense clashes in the Abu Salim neighbourhood next to Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound. Gaddafi loyalists fired shells and assault rifles at fighters who captured the compound on Tuesday. Abu Salim is home to a notorious prison and thought to be one of the last remaining regime strongholds within the capital.
Rebels have still found no sign of the long-time leader. The conquest effectively signalled the end of the regime, even though the opposition may face pockets of stiff resistance for some time to come. And rebels know they cannot really proclaim victory until Gaddafi is found.
Rebel fighters said they controlled most of Bab al-Aziziya but not all of it.
They are now using Bab al-Aziziya as staging area for their operations, loading huge trucks with ammunition and discussing where they need to deploy.
About 20 rebels were taking cover behind a wall of the compound and firing rifles and rocket-propelled grenades toward Gaddafi’s snipers in tall buildings in nearby Abu Salim. They came under heavy incoming fire.
“There are also civilians in those buildings who support Gaddafi and they too are firing on us,” said Mohammed Amin, a rebel fighter.
He said the rebels have been unable to push into Abu Salim but have surrounded it. Amin added that one rebel was killed in the area when they took up positions in the morning and four were kidnapped by Gaddafi troops while on patrol nearby.
The rebels claim they control the Tripoli airport but are still clashing with Gaddafi forces around it.