Last Updated 5:42 p.m. ET
TRIPOLI, Libya – Hundreds of euphoric Libyan rebels pushed to the western outskirts of Tripoli without meeting any resistance after they overran a major military base that defends the capital on Sunday.
The Associated Press reports rebels have entered the capital and taken control of outlying neighborhoods. Rebels are reported to have advanced to within two miles of the city center.
In a day of rapid developments SKY News reports that rebels are meeting little to no resistance as they advance into Tripoli.
Alex Crawford of SKY News reports that people have been coming out of their house sby the hundreds to greet the rebel soldiers, kissing them. “They feel they have been liberated tonight,” Crawford said.
Al Arabiya Television has reported that Qaddafi’s presidential guard has surrendered to the rebels. The rebels’ National Transitional Council has also confirmed the capture of Saif Al Islam Gaddafi in Tripoli today.
Associated Press reporters with the rebels said they reached the Tripoli suburb of Janzour around nightfall Sunday. They were greeted by civilians lining the streets and waving rebel flags. Hours earlier, the same rebel force of hundreds drove out elite forces led by Qaddafi’s son Khamis in a brief gunbattle.
Speaking to reporters this evening, government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim blamed NATO for turning a peaceful city into “hellfire.”
“These armed gangs would not be able to move a meter, advance a meter” if it wre not for NATO, he said.
Ibrahim said the world was responsible for the violence in the capital. He said that since midday Sunday 1,300 people had been killed in the capital and 5,000 injured. “The hospitals cannot even cope,” he said.
The elated fighters danced and cheered, hauling off truckloads of weapons and advanced full speed toward the capital in pickup trucks. Ahmed al-Ajdal, 27, a fighter from Tripoli, was loading up a truck with ammunition.
“This is the wealth of the Libyan people that he was using against us,” he said, pointing to his haul. “Now we will use it against him and any other dictator who goes against the Libyan people.”
Meanwhile, Libyan State TV said that Qaddafi took a tour of Green Square and several Tripoli streets a short time ago, following the broadcast of an audio message in which he exhorted Libyans to arm themselves and defy the rebel fighters.
Qaddafi calls on Libyans to resist rebel forces
“The time is now to fight for your politics, your oil, your land,” he said. “I am with you in Tripoli – together until the ends of the earth,” Qaddafi shouted.
Inside Tripoli, there was a second day of widespread clashes between what the opposition called “sleeping cells” of rebels who are rising up and Qaddafi loyalists. There were also large anti-government protests.
An AP reporter with the rebels rapidly advancing toward Tripoli saw them take over the base of the Khamis Brigade, 16 miles west of Tripoli. After a brief gunbattle, Qaddafi’s forces fled what was once a major symbol of the regime’s power.
Qaddafi’s 27-year-old son Khamis commands the 32nd Brigade, also known simply as the Khamis Brigade, one of the best trained and equipped units in the Libyan military.
Inside the base, hundreds of rebels cheered wildly and danced, raising the rebel flag on the front gate of a large, gray wall enclosing the compound. They seized large stores of weapons, driving away with truckloads of whatever arms they could get their hands on. One of the rebels carried off a tube of grenades, while another carted off two mortars.
Mahmoud al-Ghwei, 20 and unarmed, said he had just came along with a friend for the ride into Tripoli with the advancing force.
“It’s a great feeling. For all these years, we wanted freedom and Qaddafi kept it from us. Now we’re going to get rid of Qaddafi and get our freedom,” he said.
Inside the large, open compound filled with eucalyptus trees were three gigantic wooden crates labeled “Libyan Armed Forces.” They were loaded with large-caliber ammunition for anti-aircraft guns.
The rebels were busy loading two huge trucks with boxes full of ammunition. One carried armfuls of RPGs.
The rebels were chanting: “We are coming for you, frizz-head.”
The rebels said they freed 300-400 prisoners detained on the base. An AP reporter saw some cars coming back west from the front with dozens of the freed prisoners, dressed in tattered T-shirts, prison uniforms and barefoot.
One of the freed prisoners, 23-year-old Majid al-Hodeiri from nearby Zawiya, said he was captured four months ago by Qaddafi’s forces and taken to base. He said he was beaten and tortured while under detention
“We were sitting in our cells when all of a sudden we heard lots of gunfire and people yelling ‘Allahu Akbar.’ We didn’t know what was happening, and then we saw rebels running in and saying ‘We’re on your side.’ And they let us out,” he said.
Rebels said Saturday that they had launched their first attack on Tripoli in coordination with NATO and gunbattles and mortar rounds rocked the city. NATO aircraft also made heavier than usual bombing runs after nightfall, with loud explosions booming across the city.
On Sunday, more heavy machine gun fire and explosions rang out across the capital with more clashes and protests.
Government minders in a hotel where foreign journalists have been staying in Tripoli have begun to arm themselves with weapons in anticipation of a rebel take over. The hotel manager said he had received calls from angry rebels threatening to charge the hotel to capture the government’s spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim.
Heavy gun fire was heard in the neighborhood around the Rixos hotel, and smoke was seen rising from a close by building.
“We are scared and staying in our houses, but the younger boys are going out to protect our homes,” said a woman who spoke to The Associated Press by telephone from the pro-rebel Tripoli neighborhood of Bin Ashour. She spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. She said a neighbor’s son was shot dead on Saturday night by Qaddafi troops as he tried to protect his street with a group of rebel youth.
Nuri al-Zawi, 인천출장샵 another resident of Bin Ashour, told the AP by phone that the rebels were using light arms to protect their streets, and in some cases were using only their bodies to fend off the Qaddafi troops riding in pickup trucks.
“We are used to this situation now. We are a city that is cut off from the world now,” he said.
The residents reported clashes in neighborhoods all over Tripoli as well as the city’s Mitiga military airport. They said they heard loud explosions and exchanges in of gunfire in the Fashloum, Tajoura and Bin Ashour neighborhoods. Residents and opposition fighters also reported large anti-regime protests in those same neighborhoods. In some of them, thousands braved the bullets of snipers perched atop high buildings.
Mukhtar Lahab, a rebel commander closing in on Tripoli and a former captain in Qaddafi’s army, said his relatives inside the capital reported mass protests in four neighborhoods known as sympathetic to the opposition: Fashloum, Souk al-Jouma, Tajoura and Janzour. He said mosques there were rallying residents with chants of “Allahu Akbar” or “God is great,” broadcast on loudspeakers.
At the same time, hundreds of rebels in pickup trucks and even some on foot were moving full speed toward the capital from the west. It was those rebels who captured the Khamis Brigade base.
As town after town fell and Qaddafi forces melted away, the mood turned euphoric. Some shouted: “We are getting to Tripoli tonight.” Others were shooting in the air, honking horns and yelling “Allahu Akbar.”
Rebel Murad Dabdoub told the AP that Qaddafi’s forces were pounding rebel positions west of the city with rockets, mortars and anti-aircraft fire.
“We are not going back. said Issam Wallani, another rebel. “God willing, this evening we will enter Tripoli.”