Libyan rebels have taken the capital

THE sound of heavy fighting can be heard near the residence in central Tripoli of embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after rebel forces the previous day surged into the capital, taking over many districts.

Fighting was also heard in the south of the capital from around 5.30am local time (1.30pm AEST), with heavy weaponry and automatic rifle fire being deployed, an AFP reporter said.

Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound has been blasted regularly since the start of the international military intervention in Libya on March 19 and most of the buildings in the complex have been flattened.

The strongman’s whereabouts are unknown although he broadcast three audio messages earlier today as rebel forces were sweeping through the capital and taking over the symbolic Green Square in the heart of the city.

The crackle of Kalashnikov fire could be heard before dawn in Tripoli near the Hotel Rixos, which houses most of the foreign media.

Rebels met little resistance as Gaddafi’s defenders melted away and his 42-year rule rapidly crumbled. The euphoric fighters celebrated with residents of the capital in Green Square, the symbolic heart of the fading regime.

Gaddafi’s whereabouts were unknown, though state TV broadcast his bitter pleas for Libyans to defend his regime. Opposition fighters captured his son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, who along with his father faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands. Another son was in contact with rebels about surrendering, the opposition said.

“It’s over, frizz-head,” chanted hundreds of jubilant men and women massed in Green Square, using a mocking nickname of the curly-haired Gaddafi. The revelers fired shots in the air, clapped and waved the rebels’ tricolor flag. Some set fire to the green flag of Gaddafi’s regime and shot holes in a poster with the leader’s image.

By the early hours of Monday, rebels controlled large parts of the capital. They set up checkpoints alongside residents – many of them secretly armed by rebel smugglers in recent weeks. But pockets of pro-Gaddafi fighters remained: In one area, Associated Press reporters with the rebels were stopped and told to take a different route because of regime snipers nearby.

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