published Sunday, August 21st, 2011, updated Aug. 21st, 2011 at 7 p.m.

Rebels: Gadhafi's military guard has surrendered

  • photo
    Rebel fighters speed towards the frontllne fighting in the village of Mayah, some 30 kilometers west from Tripoli, LIbya, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2011.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

TRIPOLI, Libya — Libyan rebel leader says the top military unit in charge of protecting Moammar Gadhafi has surrendered.

Euphoric Libyan rebels raced into the capital Tripoli on Sunday and moved close to center with little resistance as Gadhafi’s defenders melted away. Opposition leaders said Gadhafi’s son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, has been arrested.

Associated Press reporters with the rebels said the fighters moved easily from the western outskirts into the regime stronghold in a dramatic turning of the tides in the 6-month-old Libyan civil war.

“They will enter Green Square tonight, God willing,” said Mohammed al-Zawi, a 30-year-old rebel who entered Tripoli. Green Square has been the site of night rallies by Gadhafi supporters throughout the uprising.

Gadhafi’s whereabouts were unknown. But he delivered a series of angry and defiant audio messages broadcast on state television. He was not shown in the messages. In the latest one, he acknowledged that the opposition forces were moving into Tripoli and warned the city would be turned into another Baghdad.

“How come you allow Tripoli the capital, to be under occupation once again?” he said. “The traitors are paving the way for the occupation forces to be deployed in Tripoli.”

He called on his supporters to march in the streets of the capital and “purify it” from “the rats.”

Opposition leaders at one point claimed Gadhafi’s son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, had been arrested, but they later backtracked and said this was not yet confirmed.

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