Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) says that deposed leader Muammar el-Gaddafi’s whereabouts have been found: He is reportedly in Ghadames, 350 miles southwest of Tripoli and on the borders of Algeria and Tunisia; the city is a UNESCO heritage site with a walled old town and a large Berber population.
Tuareg tribesman, nomads who live in the Sahara in Libya, Algeria and Mali, are said to be sheltering Gaddafi for pay. They have supported him since he backed their rebellions in Nigeria and Mali in the 1970s and allowed them to settle in Libya.
The last time Gaddafi was sighted was in Tripoli on August 20. He was reportedly seen by witnesses on an army base with his daughter Aisha, who entered Algeria the next day along with her brothers Hannibal and Mohammed, their mother, Safia, and other relatives. Another son, Saadi, has fled to Niger where he is said to be under house arrest. The Algerian government has warned Aisha to cease making statements to a Damascus-based TV channel, al-Rai, which has also broadcast statements from Gaddafi.
Hisham Buhagiar, coordinator of the hunt for Gaddafi, said to Reuters that “We are negotiating. The Gaddafi search is taking a different course.” However, Colonel Ahmed Bani, military spokesman for the NTC, said that Gaddafi’s whereabouts could not be accurately confirmed. The Guardian also quotes a Tripoli analyst who points out that Gaddafi “…spent 42 years fooling people and he’s doing the same now.” Indeed, the actual whereabouts of his family and officials of his regime are not so easy to pin down:
Tunisia said last week it had detained Gaddafi’s last prime minister after he entered the country illegally and sentenced him to six months in prison. But it emerged on Tuesday that Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi has been freed – despite demands that he be handed over to the authorities in Tripoli.
It was reported from Belarus, meanwhile, that a military plane from Libya landed in Minsk on Monday with 15 people on board. It was immediately moved into a hangar. The Belorusski Partizan said it was met by diplomats and intelligence officials, fuelling rumours that Gaddafi and his family were on the aircraft.
The NTC also says that, with help from NATO aistrikes, it has captured the airport in Surt, the birthplace of Gaddafi and said to be where his son Mutasim, his national security adviser, has been located after the NTC intercepted a phone conversation between him and Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi’s second son. Saif al-Islam is reportedly in Bani Walid; both it and Surt have staged fierce resistance for the past two weeks. Intense fire from snipers and artillery has kept NTC fighters from taking and holding territory inside Surt.
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Photo of Gaddafi in Tripoli in March 2011 by شبكة برق | B.R.Q