Rebels seize pro-Gaddafi Tripoli district: spokesman

CAIRO Tue Aug 23, 2011 5:47pm EDT

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Libyan rebels seized control of the Abu Salim neighborhood of Tripoli late on Tuesday, a senior rebel spokesman said, referring to one of Muammar Gaddafi's main bastions of support in the Libyan capital.

Colonel Ahmed Bani also told al-Arabiya TV that rebels believed the Libyan leader was probably hiding in one of many hideouts in Tripoli.

"About an hour ago, the Abu Salim district was controlled," Bani said.

Libyan government officials have described residents of Abu Salim as fervently pro-Gaddafi, though journalists who toured the district when the city was still under Gaddafi's control said some had been ambivalent about the man who ruled their country for four decades.

Rebel fighters stormed Gaddafi's stronghold in Tripoli, the Bab al-Aziziya compound, earlier on Tuesday, smashing public symbols of Gaddafi's rule. But gunfire could still be heard in some parts of the city late in the day.

Bani said Gaddafi could be hiding in one of many "holes" in Tripoli. "It will take a long time to find him," he said.

Qatar-based al Jazeera TV said late on Tuesday that the rebels were now in full control of Tripoli airport.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi, editing by Tim Pearce)

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