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Gadhafi Vows To Fight On Against Libyan Rebels


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

In Libya, residents woke up to find Moammar Gadhafi's compound in the center of Tripoli overrun, looted and destroyed. Still, Gadhafi's whereabouts remain a mystery. In a radio address broadcast last night, Gadhafi said he had left the compound in, quote, "a tactical move."

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is in Tripoli and filed this report.


LOURDES GARCIA: Thousands of rebels, and even ordinary Libyan citizens coming in with their children, ran into Bab al-Azizia before the battle was even really over.

Unidentified Man: Bab al-Azizia (foreign language spoken)

GARCIA: Whether the faces were black with the smoke from battle or damp with sweat from running, everyone was smiling once they got inside what had been the seat of Gadhafi's power for so long. Moez was among the people celebrating.

MOEZ: This is the end goal that we've been waiting for six months, and if you want to call it 42 years as well. No words - no words or pictures can describe it. It's just an unbelievable feeling.

GARCIA: Smashing or looting whatever they could find, the taking of Gadhafi's compound threw up some surreal scenes - Libyans snatching Gadhafi's golf cart, his hat, a cocktail trolley. Others burned or defaced the symbols of his regime. A golden fist modeled after Gadhafi's hand was a popular spot to take a picture. The spread winged iron eagle sitting atop a futuristic dome was hit with an RPG - after the battle. But apart from some Gadhafi swag, most people left the compound caring guns - all kinds of guns, many still in their packaging.

MOEZ: It's crazy. I mean we went right ahead into - there's a massive weapon silo. And there's absolute mayhem and carnage. You know, there's hundreds and hundreds of people just trying to pull out weapons and people are walking out with 15, 20 guns in their hands. And this is a big problem because, you know, to restore civil law and order into, you know, the community, it's going to take a long time, if weapons are, you know, distributed on this scale.

GARCIA: And they are now. The rebels are a motley crew of engineers, taxis drivers, students and oil workers who have learned how to fight and kill. It didn't look yesterday like those taking the guns were doing it to add to any future Libyan army arsenal.

As night fell, so did several mortars inside Gadhafi's compound, a sign that the fight for Tripoli is not yet over - which was the message from the rebel National Transitional Council yesterday. Gadhafi and his sons are still at large and the rebels don't yet fully control the capital. The NTC is preparing to move to the capital from the eastern city of Benghazi and has organized a hasty conference in Qatar to raise money. It's needed. Cities like Zawiyah and Misrata, where fierce battles took place, are a ruin, with most buildings riddled with bullet and artillery holes. And in the capital, Tripoli, there is little food, limited electricity, and few hospitals that are open.


GARCIA: Inside one of two working facilities in the capital, doctors treated a man with a gunshot wound to the stomach. His blood seeped out onto the floor as medical workers tried to stem the flow. Gadhafi loyalists are still active in the city and the hospitals have been overwhelmed by the injured.

GREENE: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA: Dr. Tarek Diab says they need doctors, medical supplies. Everything is running out, he says, and ophthalmologists and pediatricians have been pressed into doing emergency care. At one point the medical staff tried to take a journalist's car to ferry a wounded person. Even though there are ambulances, there is no gas. A passing car was flagged down instead.

DIAB: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA: But there is a real sense here that the war is almost over. The taking of Bab al-Azizia, Diab says, is the end. We have won. There is no doubt that the rebel victory yesterday at Gadhafi's compound was the culminating battle of this bitter, brutal civil war. But after the celebrations have died down, and the fighting finally ends, the hard work rebuilding Libya will quickly have to begin.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.