Gadhafi statue - AP - August 23, 2011
Rebel fighters trample on a head of Moammar Gadhafi inside the main compound in Bab al-Aziziya in Tripoli, Libya, Tuesday, August 23, 2011. Photo by AP
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Libyan rebels poured into Muammar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli on Tuesday and were seen raising their flag and firing in the air in celebration.

Pro-Gadhafi forces initially tried to defend the vast Bab al-Aziziya compound, the seat of Gadhafi's political power and the principal base of loyalists seeking to rescue his 42-year rule, but their resistance later ended, the reporters said.

A column of black smoke rose over the compound as dozens of heavily armed rebels, along with some unarmed civilians, entered the complex cheering. A rebel tore a poster of Gadhafi while others tried to pull down a statue of a hand crushing a fighter jet.

Rebels had said on Monday that the compound had been protected by tanks and snipers.
Chanting and car horns could be heard in the area in apparent celebration, according to live television broadcasts.

Rebel fighters streamed into Tripoli over the weekend in the final push of a six-month war to oust Gadhafi.

Gadhafi's whereabouts were unknown, though he has said in recent days over state television that he remains in Tripoli.

Meanwhile, Libyan UN envoy Ibrahim Dabbashi said on Tuesday that the country will be liberated within 72 hours.

Gadhafi's stronghold is "totally in the hands of the revolutionaries," Dabbashi, a key figure in the Libyan opposition movement, said at Libya's UN mission in New York shortly after the rebels entered the compound in Tripoli.

Declaring that Gadhafi's government "has already fallen," he predicted the city of Sirte, Gadhafi's hometown, would fall within the next 48 hours and that the entire country would be under rebel control within three days.

"We expect Libya to be totally liberated and totally calm and peaceful within the next 72 hours," he told reporters, speaking two days after anti-Gadhafi fighters swept into Tripoli following a six-month uprising.

Dabbashi said Gadhafi and other top officials were probably scattered in houses across Tripoli, although they could be in an underground shelter. "We will start soon looking (for) them and we expect all of them to be captured soon," he said.