Libyan rebels have taken control of Moammar Gadhafi's Tripoli compound.
Four hundred people were killed and 2,000 injured in three days of fighting between the rebels and pro-Gadhafi forces in the capital, but the anti-government fighters tore through the Bab al-Azizya compound with little resistance.
The rebels have ransacked the compound, tearing through rooms and corridors, seizing weapons and prizes while looking for their former sovereign.
I just went inside his room, Gadhafi's bedroom, and I was really, I was like 'Oh my God'. I am in Gadhafi's room. Oh my God. Then this thing happened. I found this, oh my goodness, a rebel told Reuters, referring to a flamboyant military-style hat.
I am going to give this to my dad as a present because he has suffered a lot from Gadhafi and from Gadhafi followers.
Gadhafi, along with his son Saif al-Islam and Abdullah al-Senussi, the former head of Libyan military intelligence, are wanted by the International Criminal Court for a number of war crimes charges, including allegedly ordering the shooting of unarmed protestors. The court will assuredly ask rebels to send Gadhafi to The Hague to stand trial, should he be caught.
On Sunday, rebels claimed that they had captured Saif al-Islam, along with his brother Saadi and half-brother Muhammad. The I.C.C. requested custody of Saif al-Islam, but the allegedly arrested man appeared in Tripoli late Monday night, claiming that the word of his detention was a trick by rebels.
A similarly confusing event occurred earlier this month, when rebels claimed that Khamis Gadhafi was killed in a NATO airstrike on the city of Zlitan. Khamis, the youngest son of Colonel Gadhafi, was then seen on state television only days later. Khamis would have been an especially important casualty. He is the leader of the elite 32nd Brigade, the best trained and equipped special forces unit in Libya.
Gadhafi has stated on a number of occasions that he would never leave Libya, saying that he would rather die than give up power or flee. Yet, when Gadhafi disappeared from public view in June, many speculated that he was planning his escape. Despite losing a friend in President Hosni Mubarak after the Egyptian uprising, Gadhafi still has a number of international allies that could provide safe harbor.
Former friends of the Gadhafi regime: Italy and South Africa, have both denounced the leader, but Venezuela's Hugo Chavez still supports Gadhafi, and said on Tuesday that he only recognizes Gadhafi as the leader of Libya. Rumors that a fully-fueled Venezuelan airplane was sitting on a Libyan airstrip added to speculation that Gadhafi may run to South America.
He also could find refuge in Saudi Arabia. Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh is currently recovering from an assassination attempt in the Islamic nation while he quickly loses support at home. Saleh has promised to return to Yemen soon, but it is not unlikely that he stays in Saudi Arabia indefinitely.
Noman Benotman, senior analyst at the Quilliam think tank and an associate of Gadhafi's former spy chief, told Reuters that he thinks Gadhafi is hiding out outside the city, waiting to make his counter-attack.
Gadhafi is banking on the rebels making a mess of Tripoli and causing chaos. He is relying on them to behave badly.
They want rival militia zones to start springing up... That's why it's critical for the rebels to get their act together.
Others close to the leader suggest that he is still in Tripoli. Saif al-Islam told journalists that his father was safe inside the capital.
Tripoli is under our control. Everyone should rest assured. All is well in Tripoli,'' he said outside Bab al-Azizya Tuesday night.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a Russian who is the head of the World Chess Federation, said he received a telephone call from Gadhafi on Tuesday night, and that Gadhafi reiterated his son's remarks.
[Gadhafi] is in Tripoli, he is alive and healthy and is prepared to fight to the end, Ilyumzhinov told Reuters.
The chess player was the last non-Libyan to be seen with Gadhafi when he visited Tripoli in June to play a match with the Libyan commander.
With the rebels now in control of the capital, international leaders are rushing to declare the National Transitional Council the official representative of the Libyan people. President Obama praised the rebels, while insinuating that Gadhafi give himself up.
The surest way for the bloodshed to end is simple: Moammar Gadhafi and his regime need to recognize that their rule has come to an end, Obama said in a statement. Gadhafi needs to acknowledge the reality that he no longer controls Libya. He needs to relinquish power once and for all.