The six-month battle for control of Libya was all but ended, a rebel leader said Tuesday, even though pockets of fighting remained inside and outside of Tripoli.
"The fall of the capital means the fall of the regime," said Mahmoud Jibril of the National Transitional Council. "I wouldn't be exaggerating to say that, within the next couple of days, many other liberations will happen."
He added, "In Libya, you say: Chop the head and the veins will dry up."
Earlier in the day, the symbol of that head was ransacked as rebels stormed the presidential compound in Tripoli after hours of heavy fighting. Celebratory gunfire rang out as rebels carted off weapons and knocked over statues depicting Libya's longtime leader.
But the most-sought-after prize, Col. Moammar Gadhafi himself, remained elusive.
Where is Gadhafi? "It doesn't matter," said NTC Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam, who said rebel forces controlled 90% of the country. "In a few hours, maximum a few days, we have a new Libya, a new, liberated Libya."
The fighting was not confined to Tripoli. Shammam said battles raged in several cities across the country. "We're fighting in three or four fronts right now," he said, adding, "our troops are limited."
Still, the business of transferring power was moving forward briskly, with plans to transfer the power base from Benghazi to Tripoli, he said. "Half of the government will be in Tripoli tomorrow morning," he said, citing the ministries of oil, communications, interior, defense and health.
A stabilization team will ensure that the city is supplied with electricity and clean water, Shammam said.
In addition, the Zawiya refinery is working.
"The whole situation is not so bad," Shammam told CNN from Libya's border with Tunisia. "Things are going to get better every day." But, he added, the work is daunting. Gadhafi left behind no institutions, no political parties, no civil society. "We have to build things from scratch," he said.
Critical to the rebels' ultimate success, he said, will be the release of money that has been frozen in international banks. "We need to provide ourselves with a lot of necessities and we cannot do this without money," he said.
The rebels' immediate needs are puny compared to what they have lacked for years, he said. "Please, please, please, let the international community know -- we are hungry for freedom, we are hungry for democracy, we are hungry for a state of law and order and we would like everybody, everybody everywhere in Arab countries and in the international community to support us and help us to get that."
But Gadhafi spokesman Moussa Ibrahim remained defiant. "Moammar Gadhafi's rule is not just over Tripoli," he told Arrai Television. "Moammar is loved by millions! From the center of Libya to western Libya to the mountains of Libya to everywhere. So the fighting will continue."
He said that Libya's tribes had organized a military leadership. "The tribes are organizing and heading to the capital in order to rescue it from gangs," he said in an apparent reference to the rebel forces.
In an interview Tuesday with CNN, former Gadhafi aide Bashir Saleh called for an end to the violence. "I appeal to everybody who has his arms to think before shooting -- from our side or from the Gadhafi side. It's time to stop the bloodshed."
Asked what Gadhafi had told him during the uprising when he made similar comments, Saleh said, "He say that he has a job and we have to continue our job. Job is to stop the rebellions, and we have the right to do so."
Gunfire was directed Tuesday evening into Gadhafi's compound. Rebels said Gadhafi's forces were firing into the compound. There was no way to confirm who was doing the shooting.
A CNN team evacuated the compound because of the incoming fire. "There was tracer fire and we could hear bullets coming past us," CNN's Sara Sidner said. "Everybody was running."
Earlier, rebels said they had disarmed and captured some of Gadhafi's forces inside the Bab al-Aziziya compound following an hours-long siege.
No members of the Gadhafi family were found there.
Some buildings in the compound were knocked down and some were afire. Rebels seized weapons and munitions and carried them off.
A senior NATO official said the war was "not over yet, although it's close. We continue to watch for flare-ups from around the country, where there are still going to be pockets of resistance. We are also watching the chemical weapons and Scud missiles to make sure they are not used in the endgame."
Jibril said it is important to begin a smooth transition immediately. "We're all Libyans, and we're all sons of this nation," he said. "There is no need for any score settling."
Jibril said a planned meeting on Wednesday of international leaders would focus on organizing aid for Libya. The meeting will include officials from the NTC, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and Turkey, he said. The money would go toward paying salaries for Libyans and covering medical treatment for those injured in the fighting, he said.