Posted at 01:26 PM ET, 08/23/2011

Libya news live updates: Gaddafi forces fire at compound

Rebels take ride on Gaddafi golf buggy

Gaddafi forces fire at compound

Rebels take control of Ras Lanuf


Libyan rebel fighters tear a green Libyan flag in the rebel headquarters at the former female military base in Tripoli, Libya, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. The rebels euphoria has faded after Gaddafi forces struck back. (Sergey Ponomarev - AP)
After a four-decade-long rule and a six-month-old battle with rebel forces, Col. Moammar Gaddafi’s government appears to be crumbling. Rebel forces have swarmed the capital of Tripoli, and the battle looked all but over until Gaddafi forces struck back Monday. Tuesday, it was unclear who was in control. The time is marked in EST. It is six hours ahead in Libya. Read the Post’s lead story here and follow other journalists’ tweets from Libya here.

Below, follow along with our live updates:


5:00 p.m. Closing up

As night falls in Tripoli, rebel forces have successfully overtaken Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound, indicating that the fight for the capital may be within their reach. We’re closing up the blog for the night. Come back and visit us tomorrow for more updates.


4:05 p.m. Rebels take ride on Gaddafi golf buggy

After seizing control of Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli, rebels stole items from the leader’s home, including his trademark hat and chain. They also took Gaddafi’s golf buggy out onto the street, where they waved to cameras and cheering passersby. Watch:


3:10 p.m. Gaddafi forces fire at compound

Hours after rebels seized control of Gaddafi’s compound, Gaddafi forces have started firing bullets into the compound, CNN reports. Reporters were evacuated from the area and rebels began to flee.

“The headline is Gadhafi forces are now targeting ... their own compound,” CNN’s Sara Sidner reports.


3:00 p.m. Rebels take control of Ras Lanuf


A rebel fighter fires his rifle at a military aircraft loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi at a checkpoint in Ras Lanuf. (GORAN TOMASEVIC - REUTERS)
Rebels took control of the oil port of Ras Lanuf Tuesday, al-Jazeera reports.

Soldiers loyal to Gaddafi retreated toward the leader's hometown of Sirte, said an opposition spokesman.

There was no apparent damage to the oil facilities in Ras Lanuf.


2:25 p.m. Frozen Libyan assets to be released

The U.S. said Tuesday it is seeking to release up to $1.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets to help opposition forces meet humanitarian needs and establish a secure government, BBC reported.

The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution to freeze Libya’s assets abroad after Gaddafi cracked down on anti-government protests in February. That included an estimated $30 billion dollars in the U.S.

Switzerland also says it will release millions of dollars worth of frozen Libyan assets when the U.N. lifts sanctions against Gaddafi's government.


1:10 p.m. No sign of Gaddafi in compound

There has so far been no sign of Gaddafi in the Bab Al-Aziziya compound. Rebels said they were going “room to room” to hunt for Gaddafi, his family members and supporters.


(Image via Yfrog Libyan4Life )
But one rebel who got into Gaddafi’s bedroom found something else: the strongman’s hat and chain.

“Oh my God. I was in Gaddafi's room. Oh my God. I'm gonna take this,” the rebel told Sky News, saying he would give the items to his father as a gift.

BBC has an annotated map that shows the layout of the compound, including Gaddafi’s residence, the tents and library and damaged bunkers.

This Google Map shows where the compound is located:


View Larger Map


12:45 p.m. Rebels celebrate around iconic statue in compound

Rebel forces that breached Gaddafi’s Bab Al-Aziziya compound celebrated Tuesday afternoon by chanting, firing shots in the air and climbing on top of a giant statue of a golden fist crushing an American airplane.

The Lede blog reports that the statue was commissioned by Gaddafi after the 1986 bombing by the United States. Watch footage of the celebrations around the statue:

Foreign Policy Managing Editor Blake Hounshell tweeted:

That fist statue is done for. I give it an hour, tops.less than a minute ago via Twitter for Mac Favorite Retweet Reply

Rebel fighters also celebrated by kicking the head of a golden statue of Gaddafi:
Rebel fighters kick the head of a statue of Moammar Gaddafi, after entering his compound in Tripoli, Tuesday Aug. 23, 2011, in this image taken from television. (AP)


12:20 p.m. Tripoli hospitals overwhelmed

Yesterday, Tripoli's only working hospital was overwhelmed by the large numbers of Libyan civilians and fighters who poured in.

Exact casualty and injury numbers in the capital are difficult to ascertain, but The Post’s Thomas Erdbrink reports that a doctor in a small Tripoli clinic said 60 to 70 people wounded by gunshots had been brought in since the battle had begun.

Mohammad Hamza, a doctor, said eight of the injured had been critical, and four people died. “We are a small clinic. We don’t have the means to deal with all these casualties. But we had been expecting this fight. We had stocked up on medicine.”

Adil, 42, had joined the clinic as a volunteer. His wife is delivering a baby. “I will name my son after the prime minister of the TNC. My wife has lots of stress but the baby will be born.”

TNC is the Transitional National Council, Libya’s interim anti-Gaddafi government.


11:10 a.m. Libyan rebels breach compound


Rebel fighters react after entering in Moammar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli in this image taken from TV on Tuesday Aug. 23, 2011. (AP)
Hundreds of Libyan rebels have entered and taken full control of Gaddafi’s Bab Al-Aziziya compound. Pro-Gaddafi forces initially tried to defend the compound but have now ended their resistance.

Al-Jazeera reports that NATO used airstrikes to knock out one of the compound's walls.

Libyan rebels were seen firing into the air inside the compound in celebrations that soon spread across Tripoli. Some rebels in the compound streamed out into the streets yelling “God is great.” Rebel TV reports that rebels have hoisted their flag over Gaddafi's home in the compound. The station played the song: “Tripoli, I love you. I am madly in love with you... Tripoli do not fear. Hopefully, victory is near.”

It is hard to overestimate the psychology of these events. @changeinlibya reported his mum told him not 2 even look @ Bab 3azizya as a childless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Rebels say they are now going “room to room” to hunt for Gaddafi family members or supporters. The compound has an extensive underground tunnel system and bunker in which it is believed Gaddafi could be hiding.

Al-Jazeera has sent a reporter inside the compound with the rebels and is doing a live shot from there. Watch it on al-Jazeera Arabic.


10:30 a.m. Gaddafi tells Russian official he is in Tripoli

Reuters reports that a Russian official says he spoke to Gaddafi by phone, and quotes him as saying he is in Tripoli and “will fight to the end.”

According to the Associated Press, the Russian official is Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the international chess federation. Ilyumzhinov was photographed playing chess with Gaddafi in Libya in June:

Ilyumzhinov said in an interview with the Interfax news agency that Gaddafi’s son Muhammad called him Tuesday afternoon and then gave the phone to his father.

Gaddafi reportedly told Ilyumzhinov: “I am alive and healthy, I am in Tripoli and do not intend to leave Libya. Do not believe the lying reports by Western television companies.”


10:00 a.m. Libya war cost U.S. $896 million so far

The Post’s Jason Ukman reports that the U.S. involvement in the war in Libya has cost American taxpayers an estimated $896 million through July 31, according to the Pentagon.

“Whether that makes the mission a huge drain on the budget in tough fiscal times or a relatively cheap price to pay to protect Libyan civilians depends on your point of view,” Ukman writes.

Ukman points out that the cost looks like “chump change,” however, when compared to the $1.3 trillion that’s been appropriated so far for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


9:30 a.m. Fighting intensifies at Gaddafi compound, across Tripoli

Fighting between Gaddafi forces and the rebels appeared to intensify, as raw video came in from outside the compound:

Libyan witness and rebel supporter Trables Voice tweeted: “A rocket from Bab al-Aziz passed by the 1st floor and exploded in Bab Ben Ghashier. I wish that no body injured,” and shared this photo:


In the Rixos Hotel, CNN’s Matthew Chance reported that as he was huddled in the basement of the hotel, he could hear “incoming artillery fire in area around [the] Gaddafi compound.”

There are also battles raging across Tripoli. “It is a street-to-street fight in the city,” CNN’s Sara Sidner reports.

A mapmaker in New York has tried to map out the ever-changing battle ground in Tripoli by aggregating incoming reports. The Google Map shows the neighborhoods in which Gaddafi or rebel forces are in control and has links to sources, videos and photos. Below is an image of the map. To see the interactive, changing version go to the Google Map.


(Image via Google)


9:00 a.m. NATO says it will continue Libya operations

NATO ambassadors will meet at NATO headquarters in Brussels to discuss the way forward in Libya and look at “options for a possible NATO role” once the conflict is over, Oana Lungescu, a NATO spokeswoman announced at a press conference Tuesday.

Lungescu said there would be no troops on the ground and that any role would be a supporting one, and “upon request” from the new Libyan government.

NATO Col. Roland Lavoire said that in Tripoli, the “tension is far from over. ... The situation is very dynamic and complex.”

Lavoire declined to say whether NATO was bombing Gaddafi’s compound but said “We will take out and strike a target if it posed a threat against the civilian population.”

Asked where he thought Gaddafi might be, Lavoire said, “If you know, let me know. I don’t have a clue.”


8:20 a.m. New distrust for rebel claims

The surprise appearance of Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, who rebel forces had said was captured, spurred questions about the credibility of other rebel claims.

Saif's appearance at Rixos also calls into doubt rebels claim to control 80% of #Tripoli. City is clearly not secure http://t.co/lOzr9TDless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

Saif’s older brother Mohammed Gaddafi, who the rebels had also reported captured, broke free of house arrest last night, according to the Telegraph.

Rebel claims that they had captured Gaddafi’s presidential guard also appear not to be true.

One rebel spokesman told the BBC that he heard that Gaddafi loyalists were on drugs.

”We are getting a lot of reports that a lot of them are taking different kinds of drugs,” said Hany Soufrakis, calling the drugs “hallucinogenic.”

The Lede blog points out the similarity between this statement and a statement by Gaddafi during a televised address early on in the uprising. The rebels “are putting drugs in their coffee with milk, like Nescafé,” he had said.

A YouTube video was also posted that claimed to show rebels next to an Afriqiyah plane at Tripoli International Airport. The rebels claim the plane belongs to Gaddafi:


7:40 a.m. Compound under attack


Smoke rises over buildings in Gaddafi’s compound Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011. (Sergey Ponomarev - AP)
Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound is under attack, a rebel spokesman for opposition fighters in Tripoli told CNN.   Rebels reportedly had surrounded the area and managed to enter one of the gates. Plumes of smoke that were seen rising near the compound supported the rebel claims, although an al-Jazeera correspondent in Tripoli said rebels were still 500 meters away from the gates. The Guardian's Luke Harding described clashes near the compound as “an almighty fight.”

Bab al-Aziziya compound is one of a number of locations where Gaddafi himself may be hiding. Reports came in on Twitter:

#Libya, #Gaddafi forces firing grad rockets and mortars from #Babaziziyah and they are landing indiscriminately in #Tripoli, #Libyaless than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

NATO confirmed it has aircraft deployed over the capital but cannot confirm it bombed the compound, al-Jazeera reported.

NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said: “it is the final chapter, the end is near and events are moving fast what is clear is Gaddafi is history. The Libyan people should be spared.”

NATO air operations also continued in Tripoli and across Libya to protect civilians in pro-Gaddafi areas.


7:20 a.m. Gaddafi loyalists strike back in Tripoli


Volunteers loyal to Libya's Moammar Gaddafi chant slogans after Gaddafi's son Seif al-Islam spoke to them in Tripoli, Libya, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011. (Dario Lopez-Mills - AP)
The battle for Tripoli seemed near its conclusion Monday before forces loyal to Gaddafi struck back, forcing the rebel forces to retreat from strategic locations. Gaddafi’s whereabouts remained unknown. A further blow to the rebel groups was the appearance of Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam at the Rixos Hotel. He had previously been reported as one of three Gaddafi sons arrested. A defiant Saif told cheering supporters: “To hell with the ICC,” referring to the International Criminal Court, which has issued a warrant for his arrest. “We assure the people that things are fine in Libya.”

Watch video of his dramatic reappearance below:

The ICC has said it never received official confirmation from the Libyan rebels' council that Saif had been captured. 

As the security situation deteriorated at Tripoli’s port, a boat that was scheduled to arrive in the capital Tuesday to rescue fleeing foreign nationals was delayed out of security concerns.

By  |  01:26 PM ET, 08/23/2011

 
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