Fighting continued in Tripoli Thursday as opposition forces pushed towards Sirte, the hometown of Gaddafi. The fugitive leader called on his supporters to "march on Tripoli" in an audio message aired on TV.
Rumours of Gaddafi or his sons being cornered, even sighted, swirled among excitable rebel fighters engaged in heavy machinegun and rocket exchanges. But two days after his compound was overrun, hopes of a swift end to six months of war were still being frustrated by fierce rearguard actions.
In photos: Taking Tripoli
Misrata veterans join Tripoli rebels in Bab al-Aziziah. Photo by Marc Jourfier for France24.
Two fighters embrace before leaving for battle. Photo by Marc Jourfier for France24.
Fighters search Gaddafi's former compound in Bab al-Aziziah. Photo by Marc Jourfier for France24.
A pick-up from Misrata brings reinforcements to Tripoli rebels in the Bab al-Aziziah compound. Photo by Marc Jourfier for France24.
Anti-Gaddafi rebels head out to fight at the presidential palace. Photo by Marc Jourfier for France24.
Anti-Gaddafi fighters prepare to leave for battle at the north-eastern gate of the Bab al-Aziziah compound. Photo by Marc Jourfier for France24.
Anti-Gaddafi fighters on their way to the Bab al-Aziziah compound. Photo by Marc Jourfier for France24.
"The tribes ... must march on Tripoli," Gaddafi said in an audio message broadcast on a sympathetic TV channel. "Do not leave Tripoli to those rats, kill them, defeat them quickly.
"The enemy is delusional, NATO is retreating," he shouted, sounding firmer and clearer than in a similar speech released on Wednesday. Though his enemies believe Gaddafi, 69, is still in the capital, they fear he could flee by long-prepared escape routes, using tunnels and bunkers, to rally an insurgency.
Diehards numbering perhaps in the hundreds were keeping at bay squads of irregular, anti-Gaddafi fighters who had swept into the capital on Sunday and who were now rushing from one site to another, firing assault rifles, machineguns and anti-aircraft cannon bolted to the backs of pick-up trucks.
In a southern district close to the notorious prison of Abu Salim, the rebel forces launched a concerted assault, sweeping from house to house.
Supplies, oil exports
While random gunfire broke out periodically across the city, some of its two million residents ventured out to stock up on supplies. Aid agencies sounded an alarm about food, water and also medical supplies, especially for hundreds of wounded.
Libya: reports and analysis by France24
In another sign of optimism, the official taking charge of financial and energy affairs told Reuters that Libya hoped to resume exporting crude oil next month and that damage to oil facilities during the fighting had been less than feared.
"The NOC (National Oil Corporation) initial estimate is that we can have about 500,000 to 600,000 barrels within two to three weeks," Ali Tarhouni said. "And then we ramp this up to the normal, which is about 1.6 (million). My expectation is that this will be done within a year or so.
"The state of the oil fields are a lot better than expected ... Most of the fields are more than 90 percent fine."
It was the first time an official from the rebel National Transitional Council was seen in the capital taking up the reins of government.
Nonetheless, in order to begin installing an administration in a nation run by an eccentric personality cult for 42 years, to offer jobs to young men now bearing arms and to heal ethnic, tribal and other divisions that have been exacerbated by civil war, Libya's new masters are anxious for hard cash quickly.
"We need urgent help," Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the government-in-waiting, told Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Milan as Western leaders tried to persuade others at the United Nations to ease sanctions and a freeze on Libyan foreign assets that were imposed to punish Gaddafi.
Some governments, notably in Africa where there was some sympathy for Gaddafi's view of his Western enemies as colonialist aggressors, have been reluctant to agree so far.
Fear of failure
After a meeting of officials in Istanbul, the Contact Group of allies against Gaddafi called on Libyans to avoid revenge.
In pictures: storming Gaddafi's stronghold
Libyan rebels preparing to attack Muammar Gaddafi's compound, Bab al Azaziyah, on 23 August. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil for France24.
A rebel resting before joining the battle on Bab al-Azaziyah. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil for France24.
Rebels fighting their way into the Bab al-Azaziyah compound, on 23 August. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil for France24.
Portrait of a rebel fighter during the battle for Tripoli. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil for France24.
Libyan rebel fighters occupying the Bab al-Azaziyah compound. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil for France24.
Rebels celebrating in front of the Bab al-Azaziyah compound on 23 August. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil for France24.
A rebel praying, kneeling on the new Libyan flag, inside Gaddafi's ransacked compound. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil for France24.
Rebel fighters seizing weapons and ammunition from the Bab al-Azaziyah compound. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil for France24.
Two rebels exhibiting a gold-plated gun they found inside the Bab al-Azaziyah compound. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil for France24.
Rebels celebrating the caputre of Muammar Gaddafi's last stronghold. Photo credit: Mehdi Chebil for France24.
The group also urged the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution freeing up cash quickly.
Jibril said the uprising, the bloodiest so far of the Arab Spring, could fall apart if funds were not forthcoming quickly: "The biggest destabilising element would be the failure ... to deliver the necessary services and pay the salaries of the people who have not been paid for months.
"Our priorities cannot be carried out by the government without having the necessary money immediately," he said.
Gaddafi's opponents fear that he may rally an insurgency, as did Saddam Hussein in Iraq, should he remain at large and, perhaps, in control of funds salted away for such a purpose.
Western powers, mindful of the bloodshed in Iraq, have made clear they do not want to engage their troops in Libya. But a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said Washington would look favourably on any Libyan request for U.N. police assistance -- something some say might aid a transition to democracy.
Rebel leaders, offering a million-dollar reward, say the war will be over only when Gaddafi is found, "dead or alive".
The ex-international high representative in Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown, told Reuters there was a need for speed if Libya's new rulers were to avoid a lingering threat from their predecessor, unlike what transpired in the former Yugoslavia and Iraq.
"The best time to capture these defeated leaders is immediately after the conflict finishes," Ashdown said. "The longer it takes the more chance they have of being spirited away to a place which is much more difficult to find."
The United States and NATO are also deeply concerned about possible looting and resale of weapons from Libyan arsenals as Muammar Gaddafi's rule crumbles, though the U.S. State Department said it believes Libya's stocks of concentrated uranium and mustard agent are secure.
With fighting raging in Tripoli, there was evidence of the kind of bitter bloodletting in recent days that the rebel leaders are anxious to stop in the interests of uniting Libyans, including former Gaddafi supporters, in a democracy.
A Reuters correspondent counted 30 bodies, apparently of troops and gunmen who had fought for Gaddafi, at a site in central Tripoli. At least two had their hands bound. One was strapped to a hospital trolley with a drip still in his arm.
All the bodies had been riddled with bullets.
Elsewhere, a British medical worker said she had counted 17 bodies who she believed were of prisoners executed by Gaddafi's forces. One wounded man said he had survived the incident, when, he said, prison guards had sprayed inmates with gunfire on Tuesday as the rebel forces entered Gaddafi's compound.
French magazine Paris Match quoted an intelligence source saying Libyan commandos found evidence that he had stayed at a safe house which they raided on Wednesday. NATO was helping the rebels with intelligence and reconnaissance, Britain said, and its jets kept up their bombing campaign overnight.
"There are areas of resistance by the regime which has had considerable levels of military expertise, still has stockpiles of weapons and still has the ability for command and control," said British Defence Minister Liam Fox.
"They may take some time to completely eliminate and it is likely there will be some frustrating days ahead.”
Date created : 2011-08-25