Battle for Libya: Gadhafi Breaks Silence, Says Quitting Compound Was 'Tactical'

Rebel Forces Raid Gadhafi Compound
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Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi reportedly broke his silence tonight, saying it was a "tactical move" to abandon his compound to the rebels and vowing to crush an uprising that seems to be on the verge of victory.

Al-Rai TV, a Libyan television channel, promised to broadcast the full statement from Gadhafi, who had not been heard from since Sunday, when rebel forces swept into Tripoli.

In the excerpt it reported, Gadhafi said his forces will face "the aggression with all strength," and will not give up until they have either achieved victory or been killed.

The besieged leader's comments come after a day in which cheers and celebratory gunfire rang out after hundreds of rebel forces fought their way into Gadhafi's compound, and began to loot it of guns and other supplies.

Jubilation continued throughout most of the day until dusk began to fall and the party abruptly ended. At one point, pockets of Gadhafi loyalists began firing mortars and thousands of gleeful celebrants suddenly started to run for cover. Some buildings outside the compound were hit.

The U.S. embassy in Tripoli sustained damage, although it was unclear when it occured over the course of the rebels' storming into the city.

"Our understanding is that there is some damage to our building, but I can't speak to whether it's habitable until we are able to get an advance team in there," said U.S. State Dept. spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

Nuland added that for the time being, U.S. diplomats who have been based in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi will remain there.

Without any police or armed forces to establish order, which was made more difficult because most of Tripoli has no electricity, rampant vandalism continued in the streets.

Earlier today, large plumes of thick, black smoke could be seen rising from the compound. An Associated Press reporter at the scene said that hundreds of rebels poured into the complex after the compound's gates were blasted open. After entering the compound, the AP reporter said the body of a slain pro-Gadhafi fighter with a gaping head wound was sprawled on the floor of one of two tents that had been used for pro-regime protests. The other tent was partially on fire.

Opposition radio reported that an independence flag was raised over Gadhafi's compound, according to the BBC.

The whereabouts of Gadhafi and members of his immediate family remain unknown. A rebel spokesman told ABC News that they believe Gaddafi is still in or near Tripoli.

After the gates were opened, rebel soldiers drove pick-up trucks around the grounds inside the compound, while others walked away with AK-47s, pro-Gadhafi forces' uniforms and other supplies slung over their shoulders.

Al Jazeera captured video of rebel fighters kicking the bronze head of Gadhafi's statue, which was removed some time after the rebel forces stormed the compound. A few also climbed on top of the infamous statue of a golden hand crushing a jet fighter that stands in front of a building bombed by the United States in 1986.

NATO airstrikes had also heavily damaged the compound, Reuters reported.

President Obama and President Sarkozy of France discussed the developing situation in Libya on Tuesday, and reiterated that Gadhafi's regime needs to accept that it is time to relinquish its power.

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