TRIPOLI, Libya - (AP) - The son and heir apparent of Libyan leaderMoammar Gadhafi, Seif al-Islam, resurfaced free and defiant earlyTuesday a day after rebels claimed to have captured him, boastingin a bizarre reappearance that his father's loyalists still controlparts of Tripoli and would crush the rebellion.
Seif al-Islam's sudden - even surreal - arrival at a Tripolihotel where foreign journalists are staying threw the situation inthe capital into confusion. It underlined the potential forGadhafi, whose whereabouts remain unknown, to lash back even as hisgrip on power seemed to be slipping fast.
Rebels say they control the large majority of Tripoli, but onMonday they were still fighting pockets of fierce resistance fromregime loyalists firing mortars and anti-aircraft guns. Rebelspokesman Mohammed Abdel-Rahman, who was in Tripoli, said the"danger is still there" as long as the elder Gadhafi remains onthe run. He warned that pro-Gadhafi brigades are positioned onTripoli's outskirts and could "be in the middle of the city inhalf an hour."
The rebel leadership seemed stunned that Seif al-Islam was free.The leadership's spokesman, Sadeq al-Kabir, had no explanation andcould only say, "This could be all lies."
He could not confirm whether Seif al-Islam escaped rebelcustody, but he did say that another captured Gadhafi son,Mohammed, had escaped the home arrest that rebels had placed him ina day earlier. On Monday, the rebels had said Seif al-Islam wascaptured, but did not give details on where he was held. TheNetherlands-based International Criminal Court - which indictedSeif al-Islam and his father - had confirmed his capture.
In Benghazi, the de facto rebel capital hundreds of miles eastof Tripoli, the head of the rebel National Transitional Councilsaid the rebels have no idea where Gadhafi is or whether he is evenin Tripoli.,
"The real moment of victory is when Gadhafi is captured,"Mustafa Abdel-Jalil said. An Obama administration official said theU.S. had no indication that Gadhafi had left Libya.
President Barack Obama said the situation in Libya reached atipping point in recent days after a five month NATO-led bombingcampaign. However, he acknowledged that the situation remainedfluid and that elements of the regime remained a threat.
The Obama administration official said the U.S. believes 90percent of the capital is under rebel control, while regimeloyalists still control Sirte and the southern city of Sebha. Theofficial spoke on the condition of anonymity because the officialwas not authorized to speak publicly.
NATO vowed to keep up its air campaign until all pro-Gadhafiforces surrender or return to their barracks. The alliance'swarplanes have hit at least 40 targets in and around Tripoli in thepast two days - the highest number on a single geographic locationsince the bombing started in March, NATO said.
Outside of Tripoli, almost all of eastern and western Libya isnow under rebel control. The east of the country from the Egyptianborder to Benghazi fell into rebel hands at the beginning of theuprising. In the weeks leading up to Sunday's lightning advance onTripoli, the rebels consolidated control of the western Nafusamountain range near the border with Tunisia. It was from there theystaged the run on the capital. Most of the rest of the country wasquickly falling into their hands.
On Saturday rebels said they gained control of the oilrefineries and airport at the oil terminal of Brega, on the roadheading out of Benghazi west toward Tripoli.
The rebels' startling breakthrough on Sunday, after a longdeadlock in Libya's 6-month-old civil war, was the culmination of aclosely coordinated plan by rebels, NATO and anti-Gadhafi residentsinside Tripoli, rebel leaders said. Rebel fighters from the westswept over 20 miles (30 kilometers) in a matter of hours, takingtown after town and overwhelming a major military base as residentspoured out to cheer them. At the same time, Tripoli residentssecretly armed by rebels rose up.
Libyan state television was off the air Monday amid reports ithad been seized by rebels.