24 Aug 2011

LIVE BLOG: Rebels breach Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya compound

Libya’s rebel fighters break inside Colonel Gaddafi’s fortified compound as street battles continue in Tripoli. For latest video and updates from Channel 4 News on the ground follow the live blog.

LIVE BLOG Libya (Getty)

Rebels celebrate after breaching Colonel Gaddafi’s compound
• ‘Gaddafi could have used underground escape tunnel’
• William Hague: ‘Time was against Gaddafi’

Wednesday 24 August

This live blog is now closed – scroll down to see events from Monday and Tuesday or go to the latest live blog.

10.00 Colonel Gaddafi has vowed to fight on to “death or victory” in audio remarks broadcast on a loyal TV station.

It remains unclear where the broadcast was recorded, as the Libyan leaders whereabouts are unknown after rebels breached his compound in Tripoli but did not find him.

Tuesday 23 August

21.00: Crowds of rebels gather in Tripoli’s Martyr’s Square, which until recent days was known as Green Square, to celebrate the storming of Colonel Gaddafi‘s compound. But fighting with pro-Gaddafi forces continues in the Libyan capital. There is still sporadic fighting in the streets of the capital but after 42 years of rule, the Gaddafi era appears to be coming to a close.

19.30: Libyan rebels are seen driving cars across the green flag of Gaddafi’s regime inside his former Tripoli stronghold

19.20: Foreign Secretary William Hague tells Channel 4 News “time was against Gaddafi”.

He said: “I have explained many times that it was not a static situation – time was steadily running out for the regime.

“We now just have to have the same patience and strength about helping them with stabilisation.”

17.40: Libyan rebels say they want to try Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and his intelligence chief as war criminals – Libyan UN envoy.

Gaddafi statue attacked by rebels.

17.30: There are reports rebels are looting an armoury in part of the Gaddafi compound – seizing new sniper rifles in plastic cases.

Reuters reports one fighter, in jubilant mood, shouted “It is over, Gaddafi is finished.

Another, carrying a looted television yelled “This is for the Libyan people!”

Some pro-Gaddafi snipers were still firing at the advancing rebels, a witness said.

17.15: The first pictures emerge of Libyan rebels inside Colonel Gaddafi’s Tripoli compound, waving their arms in celebration, stamping on a golden bust of Gaddafi and climbing on top of a statue featuring a clenched fist crushing a US fighter jet.

Colonel Gaddafi pictured with the iconic fist statue in 2001. (Reuters)

16.30: Libyan rebels pour into the Gaddafi compound in Tripoli and fire in the air in celebration – Reuters.

(Pictured: Colonel Gaddafi in front of the iconic fist statue in 2001. Reuters)

16.10: Al Jazeera reports that opposition fighters are trying to enter Bab al-Aziziya – they have breached one gate – after Nato jets bombed the compound this morning.

15.45: The EU’s foreign affairs representative Baroness Ashton says she understands that 80 per cent of Tripoli is now controlled by Libya‘s rebel fighters. She added that Libya’s transitional council “see themselves moving forwards to a democracy”.

15.30: Libyan rebel forces breach the first gate of Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound, reports Arab news channel Al Arabiya.

Alex Thomson blogs from the road to Tripoli: The war is not over yet

14.00: Reuters reports heavy fighting around Gaddafi s fortified compound in Tripoli. Columns of grey smoke are drifting over the area and there is sporadic gunfire.

13.15: Gaddafi could have an underground escape route from his military compound to Tripoli International Airport, an engineer who worked on plans to renovate its infrastructure tells Channel 4 News. “Gaddafi’s people wanted the underground road so that military vehicles wouldn’t get mixed up in civilian traffic. It also meant that access to and from the airport was easy for top officials when they were in Tripoli,” the engineer, John, said.

Read more: Gaddafi could have underground escape route - engineer

LIVE BLOG: Battle for Tripoli rages in Libya

13.00: Nato spokesman Colonel Roland Lavoie tells a press conference the situation in Tripoli is “very dynamic and complex.” He also confirms there will be no Nato boots on the ground in Libya.

“Nato’s mission is to protect civilian population, says they remain vigilant and have “severely eroded capabilities and mobility of Gaddafi’s soldiers.

“We will take out and strike a target if they pose a threat against civilian population.”

12.30: There are unconfirmed reports Libyan rebels battling pro-government forces have attacked the gates of Colonel Gaddafi’s fortified Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli.

“The revolutionaries are trying to get in through the Old Gate on the western side. If they’re successful, the fighting will move inside the compound,” Muftah Ahmad Othman, a rebel in Tripoli, told the Al Arabiya news channel.

Graphic: Where are Gaddafi's children?

11.55: Rebels take control of Ageila in the east of Libya, now heading towards the oil port of Ras Januf.

11.23: Nick Clegg says that the re-appearance of Saif Gaddafi, after he was believed captured, was “not the sign of the great comeback” by Gaddafi’s regime.

10.15: Explosions heard near Bab Al-Azizyah compound where Gaddafi is suspected to be hiding – Reuters.

09.00: There is heavy fighting in Mansour district, the same area where video of Saif Gaddafi appeared last night. Thousands more rebel fighters are moving towards the capital.

06.45 Video footage of Saif Gaddafi, the Libyan leader’s heir apparent, in the streets of Tripoli surrounded by supporters are circulating.

Yesterday, rebels said Saif had been arrested, with the International Criminal Court confirming the claim. It is unclear whether or not Saif was captured in the first place or if he has managed to escape detention.

Monday 22 August

22.00: Scroll down to read an account of events as they happened – including commentary from Channel 4 News Correspondents in the field.

20:50: Al Jazeera reports that a Nato warplane has intercepted a scud missile in Sirat city.

I call upon our revolutionaries…not to take the law into their own hands and to let justice take its course. Rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil

19.30: President Barack Obama addresses the nation on Libya. He says justice in Libya will not come from reprisals and violence, and the Libyan opposition should bring about a transition that is peaceful, inclusive and just.

He says he spoke to Prime Minister David Cameron earlier, and stressed the US will be a friend and partner to the new Libya, and will work to help on the humanitarian front.

“The situation is still fluid but it is clear the Gaddafi regime is coming to an end,” he says.

Tripoli map

18.40: President Obama has not changed his opposition to putting U.S. troops on the ground in Libya, a White House spokesman says.

18.00: How important has controlling new and old media been for the rebels? Channel 4 News investigates how tweets and texts helped the rebels take Tripoli.

17.40: President Barack Obama says events in Libya are proof that “universal pursuit of dignity and freedom is far stronger than the iron fist of a dictator”.

Meanwhile, there have been calls for the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing to be brought back to Britain following Gaddafi’s departure.

Tory MP Robert Halfon said extradition to the US should also be considered so Abdelbaset al-Megrahi – who was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds two years ago – does not continue a “life of luxury” in Libya.

Libya rebels in Tripoli (Reuters)

17.20: The head of Libya‘s rebel national council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, urges his fighters to respect the law and not take violent revenge on forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

The chairman of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) says: “I call upon our revolutionaries…not to take the law into their own hands and to let justice take its course.”

In a news conference in Benghazi, he called for fair trials for Gaddafi and members of his regime, and called for tolerance and forgiveness as well as the protection of civilians and public and private property.

17.10: More than 30 countries have now recognised Libya’s National Transitional Council as legitimately representing the Libyan people – the latest being Egypt.

17.00: While Colonel Muammar Gaddafi‘s whereabouts remain unknown, slightly more is known about where his family members are located. Channel 4 News has rounded up the rumours regarding his children.

Ayesha al-Gaddafi – last heard of fleeing to Tunisian island of Djerba with her mother in May
Muhammed al-Gaddafi – arrested by rebel forces
Hannibal Muammar al-Gaddafi – believed to be in Libya
Al-Mu’tasim-Billah al-Gaddafi – believed to be still in Libya
Saif al-Arab al-Gaddafi – believed to have been killed in a NATO airstrike in May
Khamis al-Gaddafi – several times rumoured to have been killed, not confirmed
Al-Saadi al-Gaddafi – former pro football player, arrested by rebels
Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi – arrested by rebels

Libya rebels in Tripoli (Reuters)

16.35: “At last, we can taste freedom!” A Libyan woman in Manchester, who has lived in exile for 35 years, tells Channel 4 News Midlands Correspondent Darshna Soni. Follow @darshnasoni on Twitter as she meets other Libyans in the UK and hears their thoughts on today’s historic events.

16.30: United Nations Chief Ban Ki-moon calls on Gaddafi’s forces to stop fighting immediately, and make way for the power transition in Libya. He also says the international community is obligated to comply with the International Criminal Court arrest warrants for Gaddafi.

16.25: Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince calls the rebel council chairman and congratulates him on the victory, according to the state news agency.

16.20: Gaddafi’s life in pictures: as it appears that the Libyan leader could be on his way out, Channel 4 News looks at this rule in images, from the early days of his leadership to his near demise on the streets of Tripoli.

In the short term this is at least the beginning of the end of the conflict in Libya. Libya expert, Dr Imad El-Anis

16.10: A Pentagon spokesman says the United States does not believe that Gaddafi has left Libya. He also says that any mission post-Gaddafi is not expected to include US boots on the ground in Libya, but there are likely to be further surveillance missions over Libya in the coming days.

The World Bank says it will re-engage with Libya as soon as it can be helpful in the country’s recovery.

15.50: Al Arabiya TV reporting that Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saadi has been captured by rebels. Al Arabiya is getting this line from the head of the National Transitional Council in Libya.

15.35: Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says he will fly to Libyan rebel capital Benghazi tomorrow (Tuesday).

15.30: Fierce fighting has broken out between rebels and Gaddafi forces near the Tunisian border, according to Al Arabiya TV.

15.15: Libya expert Dr Imad El-Anis, lecturer in international relations at Nottingham Trent University, tells Channel 4 News he believes Gaddafi is still in Libya – and probably in his compound in Tripoli.

“I think how fierce the fighting is around Gaddafi’s compound suggests to me there is something in that compound worth defending – either he or some of his senior colleagues are still there,” said Dr El-Anis.

“I don’t think he could be anywhere else in Libya – apart from possibly Sirte, his hometown, but that would have been a very difficult journey to get there.”

15.10: Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on Libya: “The momentum for change is breathtaking and, for the cynics who said change wasn’t possible, who had written off the Libyan uprising, written off the Arab Spring, clearly, they were wrong. The movement for freedom hasn’t been stamped out. It’s alive and kicking, and it’s here to stay.

“So today I want to be absolutely clear: The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with the millions of citizens across the Arab world, who are looking to open up their societies, looking for a better life.”

15.05: The Libyan rebel flag is raised over Libya’s embassy in Algeria and the Egyptian Foreign Minister says Egypt recognises Libya’s National Transitional Council, according to reports.

15.00: Libya expert Dr Imad El-Anis, lecturer in international relations at Nottingham Trent University, tells Channel 4 News: “In the short term this is at least the beginning of the end of the conflict in Libya.

“The fighting is ongoing and seems quite fierce in some areas but it is only going one way and I think the revolutionary forces will be able to take over all of Tripoli in the coming days.”

Follow our International Editor Lindsey Hilsum, in Tripoli, on Twitter @lindseyhilsum

14.50: Libyan state TV has gone off air and its headquarters is now under the control of the rebels, a rebel spokesman tells Reuters.

14.45 A source close to the Libyan National Transitional Council tells Channel 4 News that the fall of Tripoli will be a chance for the rebels to re-arrange the National Transitional Council (NTC) to provide good government for the country.

“”The NTC was thrown together pretty quickly and questions were asked as to whether the right people were in the right jobs but there wasn’t much choice. When Tripoli falls, it’ll be a chance to hit the re-set button in terms of the people who will be involved in running the country.”

14.20: Russia says it hopes the seizure of power by rebels will end Libya’s bloodshed and warned against foreign interference.

“The dramatic turn of events in the Libyan conflict bears witness, by all signs, to a shift of power into the hands of the rebels very soon,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“We hope that this will bring an end to the drawn-out bloodshed between Libyans, which has brought so much misfortune and suffering to the population of the country and caused serious damage to its economy.”

Armed rebels close in on Gaddafi's compound (Reuters)

13.40: The Arab League says it is “fully sympathetic” with Libya’s rebel council, as Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – formerly Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s closest European ally – urges Gaddafi to end “useless resistance”.

13.15: Here’s a summary of what has happened in Tripoli this morning, as rebel fighters sweep through parts of the capital but face resistance from pro-Gaddafi forces in other areas: Rebels ‘close in on Gaddafi compound’.

13.05: The Russian Foreign Ministry says it hopes that the power shift in Libya will bring an end to the bloodshed, as reports from Reuters suggest that the Libyan Prime Minister Al-Mahmoudi arrived on the Tunisian island of Djerba on Sunday.

13.00: Channel 4 News International Editor Lindsey Hilsum on the situation in Tripoli: “The streets are strewn with rubble and empty bullet casings, and pick ups are full of rebel fighters who are holding up their arms and shooting into the air.

“From balconies and windows, women and children are waving and cheering the fighters. An old man on the side of the road watched the heavily armed convoy of rebels drive into town from the Nafusa mountains and said: ‘They are all my sons’.

“I asked one man: ‘Where is Gaddafi?’ He replied: ‘Gone with the wind.’

“We actually don’t know where Gaddafi is but no one is afraid of him anymore.”

Read more from Lindsey Hilsum in Tripoli: Where is Gaddafi? 'Gone with the wind'

12.45: A rebel leader says there are no negotiations between rebels and the International Criminal Court over Saif Gaddafi, according to Reuters – contradicting earlier reports.

12.20: A relative of Libya’s rebel leader expresses her joy at the apparent downfall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

Basma El Masmari, the niece of Mustafa Abdel Jalil who leads the National Transitional Council, said she had not slept because of the news emerging from Libya.

Speaking outside the Libyan embassy in London, she said: “I’m so happy, I couldn’t sleep all night. I want to thank the Libyan people so much, I have been waiting for this.”

12.05: Prime Minister David Cameron spoke about Libya earlier – saying Gaddafi must stop fighting as his regime is in “full retreat”. He also warned of difficult days ahead for Libya – read more from Channel 4 News on his statement here.

12.00: As the battles continue in Tripoli between rebel fighters and forces loyal to Gaddafi, get all the background with the Channel 4 News Special Report on the Libya war.

Channel 4 News photo gallery on the battle for Tripoli
Rebels enter Tripoli in Libya (Reuters)

11.40: A rebel commander in Libya tells Reuters that a fierce battle is under way outside Muammar Gaddafi’s compound, between forces loyal to the Libyan leader and the rebels.

“The situation is not stable. There is gunfire everywhere. Gaddafi’s forces are using tanks at the port and Al Sarine street near (Gaddafi’s compound at) Bab al-Aziziyah,” said the rebel official in Tripoli, who gave his name as Abdulrahman.

“The revolutionaries are positioned everywhere in Tripoli, some of them are near Bab al-Aziziyah, but Gaddafi’s forces have been trying to resist.

“(Gaddafi’s) snipers are the main problem for the revolutionaries. There is a big number of martyrs, including my brother and two of my neighbours,” he says.

11.25: Prime Minister David Cameron makes a statement on Libya after chairing an emergency meeting in Downing Street.

He says the Gaddafi regime is “in full retreat” and the role of the UK now is to support the Libyan people.

“This is not our revolution but we can be proud of the part we played,” he says.

This is not our revolution but we can be proud of the part we played. Prime Minister David Cameron

“The Arab Spring is a step further from repression and a step closer to democracy.”

He says there is still no word regarding Gaddafi’s whereabouts but he would like to see the Libyan leader face justice. However, he says Gaddafi’s fate is in the hands of the Libyan rebel council. He also says that the Nato mission to protect civilians in Libya will continue for as long as necessary.

His comments followed those of French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who said that France aims to host a meeting of international partners as soon as next week to discuss a roadmap for the future of Libya.

Deji Fadahunsi, via Facebook, tells Channel 4 News: "I just hope if the rebels do win they do not end up being as bad as Gaddafi." 

11.15: Rebel fighters are reported to be near Muammar Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli but his forces are resisting. The situation is not stable, with gunfire everywhere, a rebel spokesman says.

He also says a “big number” of rebels have been killed in the fighting with pro-Gaddafi forces.

11.10: Rebel fighters in Libya say the International Criminal Court is negotiating the surrender of Gaddafi’s son Saif, according to Al Arabiya TV and Reuters.

10.50: There are reports that Gaddafi’s son Khamis is leading troops into central Tripoli, from Al Arabiya TV.

10.00: The battle for Tripoli is under way – and some have suggested it could be the endgame in the bloody Libya conflict.

Channel 4 News International Editor Lindsey Hilsum is in Tripoli. She says the city is in chaos.

“We drove down Gargaresh Street, which we’re told is the capital’s version of Bond Street, and drove straight into gunfire,” she says.

“Local men and rebels were on street corners, firing AK-47 rounds at what they said were three Gaddafi snipers in a vehicle…since last night, celebrations have given way to an anxiety that it is not yet over. Nobody seems to know where Gaddafi is…”

Read more from Lindsey Hilsum as rebels ‘take control of Tripoli’ and follow her on Twitter @lindsey hilsum