Rebel fighters deface a portrait of Muammar Gaddafi in his Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli, Libya, August 24, 2011. Yuri Kozyrev / Noor for TIME.
By Vivienne Walt, Aug 25, 2011 — The hunt for Muammar Gaddafi intensified on Thursday as rebel fighters tried to shoot their way into the leader’s home town of Sirte 300 miles east of Tripoli, as they also waged fierce battles in the southern neighborhoods of the capital itself. As the full challenge of crushing the last remnants of Gaddafi’s forces became clear, questions emerged over just how deeply involved Western countries were in hunting down the fugitive leader.
With rebels moving to defeat the final push by Gaddafi’s forces, — with no way of knowing whether they number in the hundreds or thousands — a group of opposition fighters uncovered a huge horde of ammunition stashed by regime soldiers on the wooded grounds of the Rixos Hotel, where about 35 foreign journalists were eventually freed Wednesday, ending a five-day siege inside. That discovery, said some rebels, suggested that the area might have been planned as a staging ground by Gaddafi’s forces in the event of a last-resort battle for Tripoli. A Sky News correspondent reported seeing dozens of corpses of Gaddafi fighters stacked in tents near the hotel. But the fight for control over the area continued, and gunfire erupted from high-rise buildings near the hotel, where snipers were believed to have positioned themselves. . . .