TRIPOLI, Libya -- Intense clashes erupted Wednesday between Libyan rebels and regime loyalists in a neighborhood next to Moammar Gadhafi's compound that was stormed by opposition forces a day earlier. The road to Tripoli's airport was closed by fire from pro-government snipers, according to Associated Press reporters at the scene.
The rebels claim they have now taken control of nearly all of Tripoli, but Gadhafi loyalists fired shells and assault rifles at fighters who had captured the Libyan leader's personal Bab al-Azizya compound one day earlier.
The latest fighting was centered in the neighborhood of Abu Salim, adjacent to the compound and home to a notorious prison. Abu Salim is thought to be one of the last remaining regime strongholds within the capital.
The rebel fighters are now using Bab al-Aziziya as staging area for their operations, loading huge trucks with ammunition and discussing where they need to deploy.
About 20 rebels were taking cover behind a wall of the compound and firing rifles and rocket-propelled grenades toward Gadhafi's snipers in tall buildings in nearby Abu Salim. They came under heavy incoming fire.
"There are also civilians in those buildings who support Gadhafi and they too are firing on us," said Mohammed Amin, a rebel fighter.
He said the rebels have been unable to push into Abu Salim but have surrounded it. Amin added that one rebel was killed in the area when they took up positions in the morning and four were kidnapped by Gadhafi troops while on patrol nearby.
The rebels claim they control the Tripoli airport but are still clashing with Gadhafi forces around it. AP reporters said the road leading to the airport is closed because of heavy fire from regime snipers.
Khalil Mabrouk, a 37-year-old rebel fighter, said he had just come from the airport and the rebels have been inside since Monday. Most of the immediate area in the airport was cleared of Gadhafi troops, he said. But south of it, Gadhafi's forces are firing rockets and shelling rebel positions inside the airport.
A defiant Gadhafi vowed to fight on "until victory or martyrdom," in an audio message overnight. Even as his 42-year-old regime was crumbling around him, Gadhafi vowed not to surrender. He urged residents of the Libyan capital and loyal tribesmen across his North African nation to free Tripoli from the "devils and traitors" who have overrun it.
Rebel leaders, meanwhile, made their first moves to set up a new government in the capital. During Libya's six-month civil war, opposition leaders had established their interim administration, the National Transitional Council, in the eastern city of Benghazi, which fell under rebel control shortly after the outbreak of widespread anti-regime protests in February.
"Members of the council are now moving one by one from Benghazi to Tripoli," said Mansour Seyf al-Nasr, the Libyan opposition's new ambassador to France. He said that Tripoli is "secure and our guys are checking all the areas."
The deputy rebel chief, Mahmoud Jibril, was to meet later Wednesday with French President Nicholas Sarkozy, one of the earliest and staunchest supporters of the Libyan opposition, along with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Rebels stormed Gadhafi's compound Tuesday but found no sign of the longtime leader. But it effectively signaled the end of the regime, even though the opposition may face pockets of stiff resistance for some time to come. And rebels know they cannot really proclaim victory until Gadhafi is found.
On Wednesday morning, rebel fighters said they controlled most of Bab al-Aziziya but not all of it.