At least two major towns as well as numerous smaller ones remained under Gaddafi’s control, and it was clear that more fighting lies ahead before the rebels can claim the whole country.
Ever defiant, Gaddafi vowed Wednesday to fight on “until victory or martyrdom” and called on residents of the Libyan capital and loyal tribesmen across the country to free Tripoli from the “devils and traitors” who have overrun it, the Associated Press reported.
In an address from an unknown location, Gaddafi asked: “Why are you letting them wreak havoc?” The speech was broadcast on a local radio station and reported by al-Orouba TV, a Syrian-based station owned by a Gaddafi supporter. Libyan state television, which formerly carried Gaddafi’s speeches, was taken over by the rebels Tuesday.
Al-Orouba TV earlier quoted Gaddafi as saying he had left the Bab al-Aziziya compound in a “tactical move.”
But with the breaching of the walls of the compound from which Gaddafi ruled unchallenged for most of the past 42 years, his stewardship of Libya seemed to be over, making him the third dictator to be toppled since Arabs across the region began to rise up against their rulers in January.
This was also the first outright regime change of the Arab Spring. Although people power forced Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali to step down, their regimes remained largely intact, with military leaders from the old order stepping in to oversee the transition to a still-undefined new one.
Never before has the Arab world witnessed a rebel army overrun a ruler’s home and power base in scenes that unfolded live on television — eventually on multiple channels but first on al-Jazeera, which has played a key role throughout the Arab revolts.
Footage showed rebel fighters waving from the shell of a house bombed by U.S. warplanes in 1986, which Gaddafi had preserved as a monument to his own survival, and clambering onto a bronze sculpture of Gaddafi’s fist clutching an F-16 fighter jet, a work commissioned to commemorate the attack.
The rebels also swarmed through the extensive grounds where Gaddafi until recently had kept camels and where his supporters gathered throughout the NATO bombing campaign to serve as human shields for their leader.
There was no sign of Gaddafi, and many Libyans suspect that he may have long ago moved out of the walled compound, which has been a frequent target of NATO attacks.
Throughout the day, concerns were growing for the safety of journalists still trapped under fire at the Rixos hotel nearby.