As Libyan rebels stormed his compound, Colonel Gaddafi last night vowed to die a “martyr” if he lost control of the country.

Gaddafi’s 42-year grip on Libya appeared to have come to an end when rebels stormed his heavily-fortified Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli last night.

However, in a defiant broadcast, Gaddafi claimed he had not given up the battle and that his retreat had been a tactical move. According to his speech, the former Libyan leader had been on an undercover tour of Tripoli and did not feel he had lost control.

In a second statement, Gaddafi promised to turn Libya into “"burning volcano and a fire under the feet of the invaders and their treacherous agents", a speech reminiscent of Saddam Hussein's threat in 1991 – after which he set fire to Kuwait’s oil fields.

Gaddafi told Tripoli residents that they must "cleanse" Tripoli of the rebels and free it from the "devils" who have overrun it. He vowed victory or death in his fight against the rebels.

Slamming Nato airstrikes for smashing his compound, he said: “We are resisting with all our strength… we will either win or become martyrs, God willing.”

The speech was broadcast on a Tripoli radio station but Gaddafi’s whereabouts are unknown. He is believed to be hiding in a 2,000-mile network of secret vaults leading to key buildings, airports and military bases.

Today, a rebel flag flew over Gaddafi’s compound.