Rebels celebrate after breaching Gaddafi compound

 
City A.M. Reporter
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound is now fully in the hands of opposition fighters and the country will be liberated within 72 hours, Libyan UN envoy Ibrahim Dabbashi has said.

Gaddafi's compound is "totally in the hands of the revolutionaries," Dabbashi, a key figure in the Libyan opposition movement, told reporters at Libya's UN mission in New York.

He predicted that the city of Sirte, Gaddafi's home town, would fall within the next 48 hours and that the entire country would be under rebel control within three days.

"We expect Libya to be totally liberated and totally calm and peaceful within the next 72 hours," he said.

Libyan rebels poured into Gaddafi's compound and were seen firing in the air in celebration, Reuters reporters on the scene said.

Pro-Gaddafi forces initially tried to defend the vast Bab al-Aziziya compound, the seat of Gaddafi's political power and the principal base of loyalists seeking to rescue his 42-year rule, but their resistance later ended, the reporters said.

A column of black smoke rose over the compound as dozens of heavily armed rebels, along with some unarmed civilians, entered the complex cheering. A rebel tore a poster of Gaddafi while others tried to pull down a statue of a hand crushing a fighter jet.

Rebels had said the compound had been protected by tanks and snipers.

Chanting and car horns could be heard in the area in apparent celebration, according to live television broadcasts.

Rebel fighters streamed into Tripoli over the weekend in the final push of a six-month war to oust Gaddafi.

Gaddafi and other top officials are thought to be scattered in houses across Tripoli, though they could be in an underground shelter.

The opposition is prepared to discuss the indictments of Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and his intelligence chief with the International Criminal Court in The Hague but would like to put them on trial as war criminals in Libya, Dabbashi said.