In a radio speech rebroadcast on a Libyan satellite TV channel, Col Gaddafi pledged “martyrdom or victory” in the fight against Nato and the Libyan rebels. He said his compound had already been destroyed by what he said were 64 Nato air strikes.
“I have been out a bit in Tripoli discreetly, without being seen by people, and… I did not feel that Tripoli was in danger,” he said.
“All Libyans must be present in Tripoli, young men, tribal men and women must sweep through Tripoli and comb it for traitors,” the Libyan leader said. “I have been out a bit in Tripoli discreetly, without being seen by people, and … I did not feel that Tripoli was in danger,” he added.
The statement was made after gleeful rebels ransacked Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya bastion, seizing weapons and smashing symbols of a government whose demise will transform Libya and send a warning to other Arab autocrats facing popular uprisings.
The National Transitional Council declared the political transition in the country “begins immediately”, with rebels saying they will move their headquarters from Benghazi to Tripoli by Thursday.
Omar al-Ghirani, a spokesman for the rebels, said loyalist forces had fired seven Grad missiles at residential areas of the capital, causing people to flee their homes in panic.
A spokesman for Gaddafi Moussa Ibrahim said the Libyan leader was ready to resist the rebels for months, or even years. “We will turn Libya into a volcano of lava and fire under the feet of the invaders and their treacherous agents,” Moussa Ibrahim said, speaking by telephone to the pro-Gaddafi channels.
There are different opinions about Gaddafi’s whereabouts. Colonel Ahmed Bani told Al-Arabiya TV that rebels believed Gaddafi was probably holed up in one of many hideouts in Tripoli. “It will take a long time to find him,” he said.
The Russian head of the International Chess Federation, who had visited Tripoli in June, told Reuters Gaddafi called him on Tuesday to say he would stay in Tripoli and “fight to the end”.
The Gaddafi family are believed to have access to numerous safe houses in Tripoli and beyond, and the situation is unclear in the colonel’s hometown of Sirte, which has been a stronghold of his loyalists.
Fighting has been reported in Sebha, 650km (400 miles) south of Tripoli, since the rebels moved into the capital. Sebha has a significant military and air force base and, if Col Gaddafi can reach it, it would provide him the option of easy desert escape routes into neighbouring Niger and Chad, according to the Associated Press news agency.
At the same time Mahmoud Jibril, the executive head of the National Transitional Council, said: “This is the new Libya, where every Libyan works as a beloved brother, hand in hand, to serve the interests of the nation to ensure equality and justice for everyone.
“We have to be transparent in front of the whole world. Now we have to concentrate on building and healing our wounds.”
Rebel representatives also prepared for high-level talks in Qatar on Wednesday with envoys of the US, UK, France, Turkey and the UAE to discuss how to move ahead in the post-Gaddafi Libya.
The head of the NTC’s acting cabinet, Mahmoud Jibril, said it was seeking $2.5bn (£1.5bn) in immediate aid. Mr Jibril estimates that Libya has some $160-170bn in frozen assets. The US has said it will try to release up to $1.5bn in frozen Libyan assets.
Its immediate priority is to pay employees’ salaries and cover humanitarian costs but, in the longer term, money will be needed to repair Libya’s oil infrastructure.
As crowds cheered into Tuesday night in the city’s Green Square, now Martyrs’ Square, some Qaddafi militiamen were still fighting around the city, and the rebels acknowledged that even the Qaddafi compound, called Bab al-Aziziya, was not yet under their full control.
400 people were killed and 2,000 wounded in the three days of fighting in Tripoli. It was reported that rebels had captured up to 600 Gaddafi soldiers.
NATO officials in Brussels and London said the alliance’s warplanes, which have been helping the rebels, were flying reconnaissance and other missions over Libya. [via Reuters, The Telegraph, BBC and The New York Times]