Three week have passed since the rebels captured Tripoli; they have continued to struggle to establish control of all of Libya. Rebel forces are giving conflicting reports about the possible whereabouts of Muammar el-Gaddafi.
The Hunt For Gaddafi
Some fighters are saying that they have surrounded Muammar el-Gaddafi within a 60 kilometer radius and that it is “only a matter of time” before he is caught. Anis Sharif, a spokesman for Tripoli’s new military council, said that Gaddafi has been tracked using “high technology and human intelligence,” says Al Jazeera, though he would not reveal where Gaddafi is.
Hisham Buhagiar, who is co-ordinating the National Transitional Council (NTC)’s efforts to find Gaddafi, says that Gaddafi was seen three days earlier near the village of Ghwat, which is around 200 miles from the border with Niger. According to the Guardian, Buhagiar says that Gaddafi is thought to be traveling south, towards Chad or Niger, in a convoy of ten cars and is using a tent as shelter. Buhagiar acknowledged that none of the sources he had spoken to said that they had actually seen Gaddafi.
On Tuesday, the country of Niger confirmed that Gaddafi’s personal security chief had been admitted to the country. Niger’s foreign minister Mohamed Bazoum said that it had not been decided if the country would accept Gaddafi himself or hand him over to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Bazoum did say that Niger has no means of closing its border and that at least three convoys from Libya had entered Niger containing “several pro-Gaddafi businessmen, as well as Agaly ag Alambo, a Tuareg rebel leader”; all would be free to stay in Niger.
The US says that, while it believes that senior Gaddafi regime figures had crossed over the border into Niger, Gaddafi himself has not.
However, Libya’s new deputy defense minister Mohammad Tanaz, says that the NTC does not know where Gaddafi is, and that finding him is not a “priority.”
Rebels Seek Surrender of Bani Walid
The rebels are continuing negotiations with pro-Gaddafi supporters in the town of Bani Walid, which is about 65 kilometers southeast of Tripoli. When representatives of the rebels approached the city to say there would be no retributions if the town surrendered peacefully, they were fired at and had to retreat to NTC territory. Rebel fighters have gathered in the thousands outside Bani Walid and, in preparation for fighting, built a field hospital and staffed it with ten volunteer doctors.
Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, was reportedly sighted in Bani Walid on Monday or Tuesday, says the Guardian. Bani Walid is made up of 52 villages, three of which are occupied by pro-Gaddafi snipers. Lead rebel negotiator Abdullah Kanshil says that Saif al-Islam could be hiding in the towns’ numerous caves.
The New York Times reports on what has been found, and what has not been found, at warehouses in Tripoli said to be for “Schoolbook Printing and Storage.” The warehouses instead contain thousands of weapons including mortar shells, artillery rounds, antitank missiles and more. They are not guarded and some crates had been opened and lay empty.
In particular, shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles, which can be used by terrorists to shoot down civilian aircraft, are missing and American authorities are concerned they could end up on the black market. A spokesman for the Libyan rebel military, Abdulrahman Busin, says that NTC authorities are aware of the munitions warehouse and that rebel “military police” had removed the missiles. But, says the New York Times, “efforts were unsuccessful to contact the head of the military police to confirm if his forces indeed had the missing missiles,” while Human Rights Watch says that the “unsecured gates” to the warehouse point to “a larger pattern.”
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Photo of the Libyan desert by ruba_ch