Nightly News | August 23, 2011
>>> to a dramatic day in libya . as we said, it is all over for the rule of moammar gadhafi . he turned his heavily-fortified compound into his last stand but the rebels broke through there and looted the place and carried out gold plated ak-47s and drove out in gadhafi 's cars. set a few buildings on fire, tore down some statues. richard engel spent the day reporting from inside the compound. his report for us tonight from tripoli .
>> reporter: the battle began early this morning with nato air strikes and rebel rockets fired from afar, to weaken the defenses of gadhafi 's compound. there's a lot of stray fire in this area as this running gun battle continues. as the compound burned, the rebels advanced.
>> gadhafi , i kill gadhafi today! [ gunfire ]
>> reporter: gunfire ripped across tripoli and a barrage of bullets fired from inside the compound. loyalists were defending their ground. then nearly five hours after the battle began, tripoli suddenly changed.
>> we're hearing something we haven't heard all day which is silence coming out of the compound. if you listen to it there's really not much going on right now and that, itself, is significant.
>> reporter: there's no internet in tripoli . phone service is down and state tv is off the air so the news was spread by loud speakers from mosques. we approached the compound unsure if it had really fallen. this is one of the main gates of gadhafi 's compound. the rebels are going inside . there are bullet holes, clearly there's been a fight here. they're even moving in their heavy weapons .
>> reporter: the rebels had taken gadhafi 's forbidden city , the loyalists inside apparently ran away. the rebels are looting gadhafi 's compound taking out everything they can carry. they have automatic weapons taken from inside the complex and -- an automatic rifle , a barretta. this is ammunition or this is a pistol? this is a pistol taken from the armory inside.
>> reporter: at the center of the compound what may be libya 's most iconic symbol, a statue of a fist crushing a fighter jet . an american fighter jet . today, rebels kissed the ground in prayer and fired celebratory gunfire , at times, dangerously close to other revellers. but where was gadhafi ? rebels scoured the grounds and think they spot gadhafi loyalists. they fire. but the loyalists are gone. and gadhafi remains at large. the leader of libya , for 42 years, is now a fugitive. wanted by international courts and no longer considered in command by his people. today, gadhafi lost his compound and, also, his country. and now, brian, people have come to a very noisy green square . there's a tremendous amount of celebratory gunfire throughout this conflict, the rebels now truly, revolutionary. they know this is over when they enter gadhafi 's compound and that's what they did and, brian, they are already calling today " victory day ."
>> so the celebratory gunfire and all those rounds land, i was remembering at arafat's funeral they had 16 injuries from the bullets that rained down back on the people. several of our colleagues, the western reporterers are at the main hotel, one of the last places gadhafi 's troops control and there are real concerns about their safety. they are all lumped together. there they are in a picture they tweeted out today. do you know anything more than we do here?
>> reporter: no, we do not. we know that there are about 30 foreign journalists staying in this hotel and they are currently being held by gadhafi loyalists and they're being held against their will and among them is our colleague, john ray , who works for nbc and itn. this could be the only place where gadhafi loyalists still have a stronghold in the city.
>> richard engel in tripoli and to our viewers, you're seeing a situation on the cusp of great change and, again, the gunfire is celebratory in nature. it is no less dangerous and kind of tricky there right now but to richard and his crew as we've wished them all day, we hope and we've taken every opportunity to make sure they stay safe.