It’s game over in Libya ­ but where is Gaddafi hiding?

Oct 17, 2011

NTC forces have destroyed Sirte and penetrated Bani Walid ­ and the bulldozers are flattening his compound

COLONEL GADDAFI is fast running out of hiding places. The NTC (National Transitional Council) has troops in Bani Walid, they have all but destroyed the coastal sronghold of Sirte ­ and now they're knocking down the ousted dictator's compound in Tripoli.

But where is the man who controlled Libya with a combination of fear, cunning and cash for 42 years?

NTC troops claim today to have reached the centre of Bani Walid, a town where 1,500 Gaddafi loyalists are still fighting. It has not been possible to independently verify the NTC's claim, says the BBC, but there is little doubt that the troops have at least entered the city.

Fighting also continues in Gaddafi's home town, Sirte ­ but the pro-Gaddafi forces there are a remnant of what they once were, sniping from ruined buildings at the NTC soldiers who have over-run a town almost completely devastated by the fighting.

Most of the population, ­ some 100,000 people, in a town that was just a sleepy fishing village when Gaddafi came to power ­ have fled, The Washington Post reports. The fabric of the place, including some of Libya's finest public buildings, is ruined.

In the capital, Tripoli, bulldozers rolled in today to demolish Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound, a fortress-like maze of buildings and underground bunkers. Senior NTC army officer Ahmad Ghargory said the site would become a public park.

Amid Libya's rubble and fighting, one hard fact has emerged: Gaddafi- controlled Arrai television yesterday announced the death, on 29 August, of Khamis Gaddafi, one of the ruler's sons and the commander of an elite military brigade.

Rebel troops said at the time that they had killed Khamis alongside his cousin, intelligence chief Mohammed Abdullah al-Senousi - but there was no confirmation from Gaddafi loyalists until now. Reuters reports today that a US official has received similar confirmation from a "reliable source".

The whereabouts of Gaddafi senior, however, remain the subject of ­ sometimes wild - speculation. In September it was claimed he was headed for neighbouring Niger, which would have posed that country's government a serious dilemma.

With a warrant on his head from the International Criminal Court (ICC), Gaddafi could well be looking for sanctuary in a country which has not accepted its jurisdiction. This was part of the reason for claims that he had arrived in Zimbabwe late in August ­ but there is nothing as yet to support this assertion.

More credibly, the vice-chair of the NTC told Al Jazeera last week that they had "confirmed reports" that Gaddafi was in the southern Libyan desert, moving from place to place with a small convoy to evade capture. Abdul Hafiz Ghoga said the ex-ruler had been tracked by satellite.

On the same day, however, NTC commander Wesam Bin Hamid claimed that Gaddafi was hiding out in Sirte. He told a news agency: "Some prisoners we have captured are saying that Gaddafi (himself) is in Sirte."

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