Is Gaddafi dead? Libyans suspicious of vanishing act

muammar gaddafi libya

Libyan leader has not been seen since he supposedly escaped a Nato attack which killed his son

BY Tim Edwards LAST UPDATED AT 12:34 ON Wed 11 May 2011

Suspicions are building that Colonel Gaddafi may have been killed or badly wounded in a Nato bombing raid on his son's home 11 days ago. The Libyan leader has not been seen in public since the attack in which Saif al-Arab Gaddafi was killed.

Libyan officials claimed at the time that Col Gaddafi had been present during the air strike but had escaped unharmed. His non-appearance at his son's funeral was put down to a fear that he might be targeted if Nato knew exactly where he was.

However, before the April 30 raid, Gaddafi had frequently spoken on TV or appeared at rallies to shore up support for his ailing regime and to mock the western nations who are attempting to remove him from power. That has stopped.

Asked yesterday if the West had any idea of Gaddafi's whereabouts, Nato spokesman Brigadier General Claudio Gabellini said: "We have no evidence about what Gaddafi is doing right now. To tell you the truth, we're not really interested in what he's doing."

Despite a bombing raid yesterday which once again singled out one of Gaddafi's homes, Gabellini insisted Nato is not targeting individuals.

The Guardian reports that people in Tripoli are perplexed by Gaddafi's apparent disappearance. "His absence is strange," said one resident. "He was not at his son's funeral and I thought he would be."

Some senior Libyans insist Gaddafi was hit hard by the death of his son and three grand-children in the April 30 attack and is still in mourning.

The fact that the Libyan prime minister Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi was wheeled out last week to say that he would be addressing the international media from now on has only added to suspicions that Gaddafi is, if not dead, at least indisposed. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.