Fierce fighting as Libyan rebels advance on Tripoli

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Fierce fighting as Libyan rebels advance on Tripoli

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As Libyan rebels advance on Tripoli, the opposition National Transitional Council says an operation has begun in the city to isolate Colonel Gaddafi.

Rebels said they had seized control of pockets of the capital. But there are fresh reports that they have been meeting fierce resistance.

In Tripoli, explosions and gunfire rang out throughout the night. Reports say rebels killed more than 30 government soldiers, with hundreds of casualties occurring outside Tripoli.

Pro-Gaddafi snipers are said to have been positioned on rooftops around his compound.

The message from the regime is one of defiance. In an audio broadcast, Gaddafi called the rebels “rats” and said they had been eliminated. His son denied rumours that his father had fled.

“I see ourselves victorious. I see our position is strong. The media campaigns that say that Muammar Gaddafi has had one or two planes arrive for him, that they left, they escaped, that Apache helicopter commandos came down… this is all talk that leads us to a dead end,” Saif al-Islam told a meeting of supporters.

On Sunday, Information Minister Moussa Ibrahim told a news conference that “miles and miles of soldiers” were prepared to defend Tripoli, and accused NATO of causing chaos.

But one former senior figure in Gaddafi’s camp has described him as a “tyrant” in a broadcast on Sunday. Abdessalem Jalloud, who once helped the colonel to power, defected on Friday and reports now say he has gone to Italy.