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1 May 2011 Last updated at 02:15 ET
Muammar Gaddafi's presidential bolt-hole
By Kathryn Westcott
BBC News
Col Gaddafi's compound is heavily fortified
Libya Crisis
In pictures: Sirte battle
Vying for power
Where is Gaddafi?
Profile: Sirte
Bab al-Aziziya, the nerve centre of Col Muammar Gaddafi's regime, has long been a symbol of the Libyan leader's defiance.
The sprawling presidential compound in central Tripoli houses Col Gaddafi's private quarters as well as military barracks and other installations.
At its heart is the shell of his former residence, partially destroyed by American laser-guided "smart" bombs in 1986.
A monument has been erected outside the building bombed by the US in 1986
Col Gaddafi claimed that his adopted baby daughter Hanna had been killed in the attack, ordered by former US President Ronald Reagan. The Libyans had been accused of the bombing of a West Berlin discotheque in which two American GIs were killed.
The building has not been rebuilt and has been renamed House of Resistance. In front of it stands a giant, gold, clenched fist crushing an American plane.
In the past few months, the iconic building has formed the backdrop for Col Gaddafi's televised addresses, as it did in 2001 when the Libyan leader spoke out angrily against the Lockerbie verdict.
And it is here that this week ordinary Libyans rallied in support of Col Gaddafi, scaling the monument and straddling the plane in front of the cameras of the invited media.
About a quarter of a mile away, nestling among the trees, stands Col Gaddafi's Bedouin-style tent, one of his homes for the past four decades. It was here, in 2004, that the then German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was entertained as he became the first German chancellor to visit Libya.
The iconic building has become a symbol of Libyan national defiance
Col Gaddafi doesn't stay long in one location and his current whereabouts are a mystery.
Last weekend, a three-story administration building about 50m (160ft) away from the tent was reported to have been almost demolished in an allied air strike. Coalition officials insist their target was a command and control facility Col Gaddafi used to communicate with his troops.
It is reported that key military leaders and personnel are based in the compound.
A day before the strike, a BBC team had visited the heavily fortified, high-walled complex.
At the south-eastern side of the compound is a football pitch, probably used by the families that inhabit the rows of houses just inside the compound.
Ordinary Libyans came to the compound to rally in support of Col Gaddafi
"The streets with the low houses reminded me a bit of a refugee camp in Gaza," said one member of the team.
The houses are thought to be military accommodation. The team saw a small child peering out of one of them.
Beyond these houses is a lower wall and then an entrance into the compound's "inner sanctum". All visitors are security checked and have to pass through metal detectors.
The BBC team saw a lot of soldiers inside the compound and some old, light anti-aircraft guns attached to the back of trucks.
"There was a feeling that there were bunkers underground - I saw some air vents," says one member of the BBC team.
Libyan state TV has been broadcasting pro-Gaddafi rallies at the compound on a regular basis.
More on This Story
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Features and Analysis
In pictures: Sirte battle
Images from the Libyan city of Sirte, where transitional government forces have been battling Gaddafi loyalists.
Vying for power
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Profile: Sirte
Hunt for Gaddafi
Pain resurfaces
Chaotic fighting
Loyalists sit tight in Sirte
Islamists keen to engage
Migrant backlash
Painting Gaddafi
The final phase?
After Gaddafi
Jalil: Crowd pleaser
Waiting for the oil to flow
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Where are the weapons?
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'Mass killing' sites
Islamists among rebels?
Profiles & Maps
The Gaddafi story
Gaddafi's co-accused by the ICC
Profile: Saif al-Islam Gaddafi
Gaddafi family tree
Key figures in rebel council
Profile: Mustafa Abdul Jalil
Guides
Libya conflict: Q&A
Coalition firepower
Where do Nato countries stand?
Where is al-Qaeda?
How war is being funded
Related Internet links
UN Security Council Resolution 1973 on Libya
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