His compound was stormed by protesters this week but the man who has controlled Libya for over 40 years remains in hiding. Just where in the world is Colonel Gaddafi?
Right now the focus is on apartment blocks close to the Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli that pro-Gaddafi supporters are fiercely protecting, arousing suspicions on the part of rebel leaders that Gaddafi and some of his sons could be holed up inside.
An audio message from Gaddafi played yesterday called on his supporters to reclaim Tripoli back from the rebels.
“Oh young people of Tripoli, fight from street to street, from corner to corner, from house to house, fight them with rifles and they will be defeated… Fight! Oh tribes come from your regions to Tripoli, as you came to Tripoli when the Italians attacked in 1911… Cleanse the great city of Tripoli, the great city of those rats and the cohorts of colonialism… Don’t leave Tripoli ever to those rats.”
Former Libyan PM — and close ally of Gaddafi — Abdessalam Jalloud defected to Italy this week and speculated on where Gaddafi could be: “He has only four people left around him. There are two possibilities: either he is hiding in the southern part of Tripoli or he left some time ago.”
The headquarters of Libya’s intelligence agency is now controlled by rebels, reports Al Jazeera. The HQ contains thousands of documents detailing the Gaddafi regime and includes hundreds of jail cells where prisoners (particularly anti-Gaddafi ) were kept.
It’s been a violent day for Tripoli. Hundreds have been wounded in the last 24 hours of fighting. There were also reports of 30 “bullet-riddled” bodies of pro-Gaddafi soldiers found in Tripoli. Here’s video footage of rebels fighting in the Abu Salim district of Tripoli:
There seem to be conflicting reports on how involved NATO are in the hunt for Gaddafi. The US has publicly distanced itself, with a State Department spokeswoman saying “Neither the United States nor NATO is involved in this manhunt.” Meanwhile the UK defence secretary Liam Fox told Sky News “I can confirm that NATO is providing intelligence and reconnaissance assets… [to the insurgents]… to help them track down Colonel Qaddafi and other remnants of the regime.”
The Libyan rebels (perhaps in need of a new name if now running the country?) officially transferred the National Transitional Council from Benghazi to Tripoli.
The end of Gaddafi was not a victory only due to NATO air strikes. It was the combination of “co-ordinated action by Nato bombers, rebel sleeper cells, and a flotilla of boats from Misrata”, writes Richard Norton-Taylor in The Guardian:
“Libya has demonstrated that the days of conclusive, concerted, action by large military alliances is well and truly over. Once again, as with Iraq, “coalitions of the willing” are the orders of the day — helped, this time, by some Arab participation.”
This interesting article by Anthony Shadid in the New York Times reflects on the uncertainty pervading the Middle East after the optimistic Arab Spring:
“Though the rebels’ flag has gone up in Tripoli, their leadership is fractured and opaque; the intentions and influence of Islamists in their ranks are uncertain; Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi remains at large in a flight reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s; and foreigners have been involved in the fight in the kind of intervention that has long been toxic to the Arab world.
Not to mention, of course, that a lot of young men have a lot of guns.”
Babak Dehghanpisheh in The Daily Beast wandered through an opulent Gaddafi family home packed with secret bunkers, Jacuzzis and old Playboy magazines:
“The main house is a 70’s-style one-story structure, built in an L-shape around a large pool with a hot tub. The pool is now half-filled with green water but the grey and black marble top bar beside the pool hints at the swinging parties that must have taken place there. Just beside the pool is a cocktail lounge with another bar and a five-foot bust of what appears to be a Greek goddess, perhaps Aphrodite, broken in half in one corner. A large pond, complete with a waterfall and small black fish, has been built a short distance away. The Gaddafi clan clearly liked to enjoy themselves. In a nearby annex, there is a color booklet for a 280-foot yacht called the Annaliesse. The flashy gym inside the house, decked out with the latest weight machines, looks unused.
About 40 yards away from the house, in the middle of a large grass lawn, is an ordinary looking rectangular hedge. What’s inside is far from ordinary. A set of stairs go down and down, about 40 feet altogether, into a heavily reinforced bunker with neon lights, a fire alarm system and wall-mounted telephones. Light green steel doors about a foot thick separate a complex series of tunnels and rooms, which seem to have been built as a last-ditch hideout. Neighborhood residents say they found a fully equipped operating room in the bunker which included an X-ray machine. Surgical masks are strewn around various rooms in the bunker, too. The usable medical equipment was taken out and donated to local hospitals. A couple of the rooms are decked out with bunk beds, perhaps for a security detail or other family members. Gaddafi, or his son Mutassim, did like to muse about self-defense in their underground lair. In one room, there is a 404-page book by Jane’s Consultancy called Protection of Libyan Military Assets.
But it’s not all business down in the bunker: there were a number of magazines in English, including Playboy, Vogue, and National Geographic, scattered around various rooms, along with an empty box of Corona beer.”