A group of Libyan rebels claims that Muammar al-Gaddafi is holed up in apartment buildings near his former compound with some of his sons, Reuters is reporting.
The rebels came close to capturing Gaddafi on Wednesday when they raided a private home in Tripoli where he appeared to have been hiding, Paris Match magazine reported Thursday.
Rebels were exchanging fire with Gaddafi loyalists inside the buildings. They did not say why they believed Gaddafi and his sons were inside.
"They are together. They are in a small hole," said one of the fighters involved in the battle, Muhammad Gomaa. "Today we finish. Today we will end that."
However, a spokesman for Gaddafi said late Thursday that the longtime Libyan dictator was safely in hiding and leading the battle against the Libyan rebels.
Moussa Ibrahim said in a phone call to the AP that Gaddafi was in Libya and his morale was high. Gaddafi “is indeed leading the battle for our freedom and independence” said Ibrahim, who was recognizable by his voice.
"All of the leader's family are fine," Ibrahim said, adding that top military and political aides remained with Gaddafi.
The AP did, however, confirm that an intense battle had erupted "between about 1,000 rebels surrounding two buildings filled with Muammar Gaddafi loyalists in the neighborhood next to the Libyan leader's captured compound."
On the Paris Match claims, Reuters reports:
Gaddafi was gone from the unassuming safe house in central Tripoli when agents arrived about 10 a.m. (4 a.m. EDT) on Wednesday after a tip-off from a credible source. But, the magazine said, they found evidence that he had spent at least one night there — though it did not say how recently that was.