Fugitive Gaddafi's few options

2011-09-09 11:08

Benghazi - As Libya's new leadership tightens the noose around the last possible bolt-holes of ousted strongman Muammar Gaddafi and those closest to him, the fugitive would seem to have only two options.

One: to try to conceal himself in the country's vast desert;

Two: to make a break for it across the border with a neighbouring state.

Since the fall of his regime last month, no one knows the whereabouts of Gaddafi, who has continued to exhort his backers to resist, while at the same time showering abuse on his adversaries, the former rebels and Nato.

Rumours abound: he is in his hometown of Sirte on the Mediterranean coast... in Bani Walid southeast of the capital... in the desert oasis of Sabha, another Gaddafi stronghold in the south... or near the frontier with Niger or Algeria.

If he is not flushed out from his hiding place, he may think he can stay on Libyan soil to head the "resistance", as he calls it, or flee into exile.

Gaddafi voiced defiance on Thursday in his first address for several days, dismissing as lies reports he had fled to neighbouring Niger.

"They have nothing else to resort to apart from psychological warfare and lies," he told Damascus-based Arrai Oruba television by telephone.

Seeking a way out

"They want to weaken our morale. Do not waste time on this weak and ignoble enemy."

Most members of Libya's new leadership, the National Transitional Council (NTC), believe the fallen strongman is still on the run inside Libya, but is desperately seeking a way out.

Mohammed Zawawi, an NTC spokesman, thinks Gaddafi is in the area along the border with Niger, but that he cannot stay there for much longer.

"He can't stay in Libya. He's finished," Zawawi told AFP. "The only thing he can do now is head for an African nation willing to take him in."

There are still pockets along the frontier that are not controlled by NTC forces in the vast north African country, which is 90% desert, and Gaddafi can still count on support among Tuareg former rebels.

If he is indeed still inside Libya, he may be waiting for the right moment to make a dash across the border, according to one official in the frontier region with Niger who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official, from the Toubou ethnic group, said Gaddafi’s most likely route to safety in Niger would be through the remote Algerian desert from the southern oasis town of Ghat on the border.

And Niger on Thursday did not rule out welcoming Gaddafi.

Intense speculation

"We hear all kinds of rumours everywhere... Some say that he is in Burkina and others that he's in Niger but that is not the case as of now," Nigerien Prime Minister Brigi Rafini said after meeting Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore.

"At least for now, we have not given him shelter," Rafini said.

At least two convoys of Libyan vehicles have entered Niger in recent days, sparking intense speculation that Gaddafi was en route to either Niamey or Ouagadougou.

Both west African countries have been major beneficiaries of Gaddafi’s largesse in the past and tipped as potential destinations for the fallen leader and his entourage.

Fathi Baja, head of the NTC's political affairs committee, believes Gaddafi "is very near the borders with Algeria or Niger" - and desperate.

"Gaddafi is looking for somewhere to hide, anywhere he can go with his family," Baja told reporters.

A fleeing Gaddafi and others wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) puts several African nations in a potentially embarrassing position.

South Africa has criticised the Nato campaign in Libya and still backs the African Union "roadmap" calling for a transitional government that would include representatives of Gaddafi loyalists.

Pretoria has repeatedly denied reports that South Africa was working on a deal to offer Gaddafi safe passage to a third country, maybe Venezuela, and as a signatory to the ICC it cannot accept him.

Terror groups

Wherever Gaddafi is, the Toubou official believes his "nuisance factor remains high, and he's a danger to all neighbouring states" and would use his contacts, weaponry and cash to wreak revenge on those who ousted him.

"Our information shows he is setting up a 'front' in border regions in the west, in collaboration with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and every other extremist group he can find," the official said.

Such claims are impossible to verify independently.

"Nothing can be ruled out, but I strongly doubt he could do that inside Libya," Zawawi said of the al-Qaeda theory. "But abroad, he could finance terror groups to cause problems and destabilise" the region.

The NTC and the United States have urged Libya's neighbours to close their frontiers to Gaddafi stalwarts.

And human rights group Amnesty International said on Thursday Libya's neighbours must arrest Gaddafi and others on the ICC wanted list if they cross the borders.

  • Captainmorgan - 2011-09-09 11:30

    The Zimbabweans are obviously happy with Bob or very slow learners , not to follow the examples of North Africa

      letsee - 2011-09-09 11:37

      There is no logic in this comment. If Captainmorgan was in Zim would he start a street protest? Don't tell others to do what you would not do. Zimbabweans don't have the resources, leadership and international support of Libya.

      slg - 2011-09-09 15:25

      I disagree Letsee. They can do it. Resources are not needed, just willingness followed by determination.

  • letsee - 2011-09-09 11:38

    Gaddafi was given a chance to get away but decided to defeat NATO !!!

      slg - 2011-09-12 01:21

      It's funny isn't it. NATO backed by the Arab League, 400 million strong. That's how delusional he was. I bet he's still trying to figure out what in heaven's name just happened.

  • tommy 2 - 2011-09-09 11:39

    Who is Libya's new goverment. The Libyan people have not voted them into power. What gives these ex-alqaeda terrorists to make decisions for the libyan people let alone cutting oil deals with the world. So the WAR ON TERROR IS DEAD..... Dead cause the west is now arming & funding terrorists. What a joke. These terrorists are going to attack they own parents in the town called bani walid.Most of them that have surrounded the town are from the whalfala tribe.But hey, gaddafi will be blamed for this. Amazing there has been how many wars,but always one side of the story being told. The western propaganda machine keeps rolling. Long live gaddafi.Long live the people of libya, Not these terrorists. ICC,how about issuing an arrest warrant for Bush & blair.

      JustinD - 2011-09-09 12:07

      Tommy2 = Tosser of note.

      Richard - 2011-09-09 12:19

      Gaddafi ran one of the few countries in Africa with no debt. Petrol was 10 US cents a litre when I was there and a loaf of bread was free. Notsurprisingly, many, many west Africans joined the queue to Libya, across the deserts of Tenere in Niger and up through the southern border. Libya, when I travelled there, was the safest country I knew in Africa and I've been to more than 35. Now lets watch what will happen. First, loans from the west and debt. Second, disease and crime. Third, ineffective government and unrest. But the west likes it this way. It has all that stuff in common.

      tommy 2 - 2011-09-09 12:31

      @JustinD, One wonders what the D stands for: ..CKHEAD. D..S D.MMY Now go play some were cant you see i'm busy.

      Libertador - 2011-09-09 12:34

      It is not Gaddafi that the West fears, it is the social responsibility that people like Gaddafi, Chavez demonstrate that Western capitalism fears.

      RoyalDutch - 2011-09-09 13:01

      @tommy 2, You are one dumb ass.

      tommy 2 - 2011-09-09 13:11

      @Royal dutch, I think you meant that for justinD.......... Another word with D.

      MagdaKus - 2011-09-09 13:21

      Gadaffi was never in his 41 or 42 years in power voted into power- he got it thru' a coup. He never indicated he intended to introduce elections. We're yet to see if the NTC deliver on their promise- but at least they're saying the right things which the great leader never did.

      Anton - 2011-09-09 18:02

      Tommy 2, " Long live gaddafi. long live the people of Libya" " Long live the rapist. Long live the victim" !?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

      Anton - 2011-09-09 18:11

      Tommy 2, I wonder how you manage to get 10 x "thumps up" In every election held since 1994, politial parties, which have radical views like you, hardly manage to get........ 10 votes!!!!!!!! Today these parties have become obsolete. And the same counts for the rest of Africa. But these extremists don't give up, and bombard us non stop with their pathetic BS

      tommy 2 - 2011-09-09 19:14

      @Anton, Don't be jealous now.(about the 10 votes)Would you want me to say Long live the rebel terrorists with 50000 dead bodies on they hand, These very same terrorists that you support. One wonders,why this lady that has accused gaddafi forces of raping her,now has american citizenship in the U.S.iI am sure this so called victim will rest well in the arms of Mrs clinton. The only B.S is flowing from that mouth of yours not forgetting the overflow from your hands. Now i had to reveal to you that you suffer from halitosis. The hand problem,cant help you on that.

      slg - 2011-09-12 01:24

      It hasn't been formed yet. It will soon though. The truer will of the Libyan people will have voice.

      slg - 2011-09-12 01:25

      Geez Richard, you're delusional. Do you have any idea what you're saying, and saying to South Africans who overthrew Apartheid of all people?

  • Happygas - 2011-09-09 12:14

    Gaddafi a cowardly bully,times up!

  • Africa011 - 2011-09-09 12:29

    The West is a cowardly bully ...Happygas, starting wars in peacefull countries to pursue their own interests! while they are people starving ight next dorr to those counrties, it costs the west millions a day to bomb Gaddafi, and yet there are countries like somalia not so far away that 'actually' need intervention. why not use these resources on the countries and people that really need it? all my life, i never heard of Libya, or a crisis in Libya, people hungry in libya or an epidemic, but in 2 weeks, there can be a civil war funded and supported by the west in a peacefull african country? i fail to understand this. and the AU stands and watches as the west once again, colonises and controls one of their countries...

      RoyalDutch - 2011-09-09 12:56

      You never heard of a crisis because the people were suppressed. He didn't even trust his own army. It is the people who own the country, not some disturbed dictator. When he got into power the people expected leadership, not self enrichment. But dictators treat their countries as cash cows. It only takes a little time when people realise that they were duped again. Lets hope the new government is there this time for the people of Libya.

      tommy 2 - 2011-09-09 13:34

      @Royaldutch, So you are relying on HOPE,HOPE....... Your so called new goverment are alqaeda terrorists & you are relying on hope. You have the nerve to call people names. I think you are a royal,now that i know.

      slg - 2011-09-09 15:27

      You obviously missed how this war started. It was not by the so-called west. Wake up.

      slg - 2011-09-12 01:28

      Tommy, hope is among the most powerful enlightening energies we have. But I'd expect you not to know that, given your extremely dark and twisted ideas.

  • malose - 2011-09-09 12:47

    You can run but you cannot hide, Gaddafi surely knows this very well. Many who tried to run away from him in his heydays are now but history. Like Saddam, he will be flushed from his hiding place.

      2WhiteStars - 2011-09-09 14:31

      "Flushed" being the operative word.

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