LIBYAN UPRISING

Libya uprising: Libyan rebels storm seat of Gadhafi's power

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Bab al-Aziziya has since been pummeled many times over by NATO bombings in the air campaign against the regime that began in March.

Rebels advance toward the front line in Tripoli. (Photo: Associated Press)

Thousands of rebels converged on the compound after it was breached, snatching ammunition and arms from depots inside. They found brand-new rifles still in their paper wrappings.

Scuffles broke out among rebels pushing and shoving to get inside two white buildings where the rifles, machine guns and handguns are stored. They came out drenched in sweat from the struggles.

Ali Sameer, a Tripoli resident, stood with three brand new rifles resting on his legs.

"They are for my friends. I don't even know how to fight," he said.

The rebels carted out boxes of the weapons and ammunition, and some drove off with trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns on the back.

One drove out with a golf cart. Another walked out with a fan. Others were busy ripping down posters of Gadhafi.

Near Gadhafi's old home with the statue outside, the body of a dead regime loyalist lay inside a large tent with glass windows shot out. The body was partly covered by a blanket, the head sticking out with a gaping gunshot wound.

A second, much larger tent was on fire.

Gadhafi has a famous penchant for Bedouin-style tents, meant to symbolize his roots as a simple desert dweller. He received guests in the tents inside Bab al-Aziziya.

The storming of the compound was a new high for the rebels in what has been an emotional roller coaster since they moved into Tripoli on Sunday night. It began with euphoria and claims that they had taken over most of the city with little resistance. The first night they partied in Green Square, a major symbol of the regime where Gadhafi supporters had held almost nightly rallies throughout the uprising. And it seemed Gadhafi rule was teetering on the brink of collapse.

Wael Abu Khris, a shipping agent turned rebel fighter from Tripoli, was walking around Gadhafi's compound after the battle, carrying his Kalashnikov.

"I feel great satisfaction. We are at last free of this dictator," he said. "Libya is free at last. No more Gadhafi!"

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