Tripoli, Libya — An amateur league of ill-trained rebel fighters appeared to be on the brink of toppling Moammar Gadhafi’s 42-year rule Monday after capturing at least two of the leader’s sons and infiltrating the Libyan capital.
The rebels’ Transitional National Council is ready to move to Tripoli, said Ali Suleiman Aujali, the Libyan rebel government’s ambassador to the United States.
“Libya is under the control of the TNC,” he said, adding that Gadhafi brigades have raised the white flag in the key town of al-Brega.
CNN could not independently confirm his claim.
But the fight might not be over, as celebrations in Tripoli’s Green Square — renamed Martyrs’ Square by the rebels — dampened after rebels told CNN that they’d heard Gadhafi army forces were heading their way.
Sporadic gunfire and explosions coming from the direction of Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound could be heard Monday morning.
Much of Bab al-Aziziya has already been destroyed by NATO airstrikes, and a fight for the compound might be more symbolic in nature.
Rebels seeking Gadhafi’s ouster rejoiced Sunday after news that two of the ruler’s sons — Saif al-Islam and Saadi — had been arrested by opposition forces.
The next day, a third Gadhafi son was also taken into custody, according to Al Jazeera.
A man identified as Mohammed Gadhafi told Al Jazeera during a live telephone interview early Monday that rebels have entered his home.
“I’m being attacked right now. This is gunfire inside my house. They are inside my house,” he told Al Jazeera.
CNN could not immediately confirm whether Mohammed Gadhafi was detained.
Meanwhile, the fate of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi — an outspoken defender of his father’s regime — could lie in the hands of the International Criminal Court.
Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said the court plans to begin negotiating Monday for his transfer to its custody. Saif al-Islam is wanted for crimes against humanity, along with his father and the elder Gadhafi’s intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Sanussi.
But Aujali, the rebel government ambassador, said he thinks the Libyan people should decide what to do with the sons.
There was no immediate reaction from Libyan government officials to the reports of the sons’ arrests. And rebel fighters said the whereabouts of the Libyan leader are unknown.
In an audio address broadcast late Sunday night, the ruler claimed “very small groups of people who are collaborators with the imperialists” were fighting inside the capital.
Should the rebels prevail, Gadhafi said, NATO would not protect them and predicted massive bloodshed. To prevent such bloodshed, he said, Libyans — including women — should go out and fight.
“Get out and lead, lead, lead the people to paradise,” he said.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Gadhafi regime is “clearly crumbling.”
“The sooner Gadhafi realizes that he cannot win the battle against his own people, the better — so that the Libyan people can be spared further bloodshed and suffering,” Rasmussen said in a statement Monday.
Libyan government spokesman Musa Ibrahim told reporters late Sunday night that about 1,300 people had been killed and about 5,000 wounded in fighting in the previous 12 hours.
“(The city) is being turned into a hellfire,” he said.
Some areas of eastern Tripoli, including the suburb of Tajoura, were out of government control Sunday, according to a Libyan government official who asked not to be named.
Meanwhile, Zawiya — a key coastal city about 30 miles west of the capital — appeared under rebel control, with celebratory gunfire and fireworks as some yelled out, “Libya is free!”
Opposition forces called Sunday “Day 1,” said Aref Ali Nayed, an ambassador in the United Arab Emirates for the Libyan rebels.
“The reason we declare it ‘Day 1’ is because we feel Gadhafi is already finished. He is already finished, most importantly, in our hearts,” he said. “We no longer fear him.”
Ibrahim, the government spokesman, blamed NATO for the conflict and appealed for a cease-fire.
“Every drop of Libyan blood shed by these rebels is the responsibility of the western world, especially NATO’s countries,” he said.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Sunday night the momentum against Gadhafi’s regime has reached a tipping point.
“Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of a tyrant,” Obama said. “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.”