Hunt for Gaddafi is on

2011-08-30 22:42

Washington - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is on the run, his capital all but fallen to rebels, his home town under siege.

Now comes another difficult task for the rebels and the civilian government they are trying to install: capturing Gaddafi before the fugitive dictator is able to mount a revenge assault from hiding or inspire an insurgency that could drag on for years.

Gaddafi's wife and three of his children fled Libya to neighbouring Algeria on Monday. But the Obama administration said it has no indication Gaddafi has left the country.

As US forces learned in the massive, months long manhunt for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, intelligence will be key to finding him.

Thanks to Nato and its small cadre of military advisers on the ground in Libya, the rebels will be able to draw on electronic clues known as signals intelligence, ranging from images from drones, spy planes and satellites to stolen transmissions from radio and phones - an advantage US troops did not have in 2003 in Iraq, when the use of such equipment was in its infancy, and the intelligence not well shared with those on the ground.

Greed also helps. Multimillion-dollar rewards led to the capture or killing of many of what the military calls "high value targets" in Iraq, including Saddam's sons Odai and Qusai in 2003.

A tipster in search of a reward revealed their whereabouts to the CIA, and the Army's Delta Force pounced, backed by the 101st Airborne Division. The combined forces ultimately killed the sons in a protracted firefight in northern Iraq.

A Libyan businessman reportedly has offered a $2m reward for Gaddafi.

200 000 troops

But the key to capturing Saddam turned out to be gumshoe detective work mainly by US special operations forces, with information gathered largely from captured suspects. Through the interrogations, the US was able to map the tribal network protecting the deposed Iraqi leader.

That effort was backed by nearly 200 000 conventional troops who helped secure a country stretching over nearly 440 300km².

The Libyan rebels are being aided by small CIA teams, including former US special operators on contract to the intelligence agency, as well as a small number of advisers from British and French special operations teams, according to three former US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.

But that is far smaller than the US effort to find Saddam. And though Gaddafi's army is dissolving in the face of the Nato-backed onslaught, the rebels have roughly 1.7 million km² to cover, an area several times greater than Iraq.

CIA officers on the ground will touch base with sources who have kept them informed throughout the battle to oust Gaddafi, one of the former US officials said. But the agency does not have officers in sufficient numbers, nor the human intelligence network built on the ground yet to help the rebels conduct an effective manhunt, the official added.

One key to tracking Gaddafi will be to study what he did in the past, a US official said. In 1986, when the US bombed the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi, he went to the city of Sabha, in a mountainous region of southern Libya.

"He was shocked and surprised," with his arm in a sling, the official said.

Two of Gaddafi's sons reportedly are leading two loyalist Libyan army units in the south as well, which could provide him support.

But Gaddafi no doubt knows that's what's expected of him.

Changed behaviour

And from watching the hunt for Saddam and, more recently, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, he knows that staying off phones or other modern forms of communication and altering his "pattern of life" are key.

That's how Saddam evaded capture for so long.

The US led invasion of Iraq began March 20 2003. Baghdad, the capital, fell on April 9. Saddam allegedly was spotted that very day in the city, before vanishing and taunting US forces from hiding spots across the country.

Special operations forces that helped chase Saddam say he'd done everything right. He stayed off cell or satellite phones. He changed his behaviour patterns to avoid detection. He travelled in taxis and wore traditional tribal clothing.

Most of all, he took shelter in a place that no one would have expected from a dictator who once occupied multiple palaces - and he stayed in one place, when they thought he'd move locations every night.

A special operations team finally captured Saddam in a "spider hole," dug under an outbuilding at a farm near his hometown of Tikrit, on December 13 2003.

The area where he was captured had been scoured by up to 4 000 troops.

"It was a whole brigade, multiple special operations teams, a huge reconnaissance and grass-roots intelligence effort," said retired Colonel James Hickey, who oversaw the conventional forces who provided security and some key intelligence links that led to Saddam's capture.

Deck of cards

Special operations teams worked closely with all conventional troops across Iraq, sharing information from hundreds of raids and arrests aimed at all the top officials listed in the famous deck of cards of Iraq's most wanted, according to three special operations officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the still-classified operation.

Special operations and regular troops alike specifically targeted the young men from the mafia-like families who were key in Saddam's pre-invasion security apparatus.

"There were five families in Tikrit that were intimates with Saddam's family that he trusted. A lot of those members were recruited into his inner circle of security," Hickey said.

Information gained from questioning the fighting-age men captured in the Sunni Triangle helped build a database showing the hierarchy and relationships of Saddam's security structure.

Breaks came in roundabout ways.

A special operations raid in Samarra led to another raid of three sites in Baghdad. That led to the capture of a man who US forces thought knew where Saddam was. His interrogation and others produced tips that led searchers to the general area where Saddam was hiding.

Hickey's 4th Infantry Division forces secured the outer perimeter, while special operations teams swept through it.

"We hit it at 20:00.," Hickey said.

He's there

A Delta Force assault team took the detainee to the site, according to the three special operations officials.

The detainee guided the special operations unit to a lean-to on a concrete pad, in the middle of the small farm, two of the officials said. "You want to know where Saddam is? He's there," the detainee said, pointing at a spot in front of the shed with his flex-cuffed hands.

One of the special operators picked up a shovel and scraped away the dirt, and found two rope handles attached to a piece of Styrofoam that was hiding the opening to Saddam's subterranean dugout.

Saddam was huddled inside, armed with two AK-47s and a pistol. He never moved toward the weapons. The nine-month manhunt ended without a shot fired.

But in those nine months, a Sunni insurgency inspired by Saddam took hold and plagued the country for the next five years. Remnants of it threaten security still.

The Libyan hunt for Gaddafi has just begun.

  • Brenda Reed - 2011-08-30 23:11

    Reports in this online article, Gaddafi was seen in Zimbabwe

  • marco - 2011-08-31 01:14

    Let's see what the NTC does in Sirte where the city had been given 4 days by the Rebels to surrender or face the consequences.If the Gaddafi loyalist in Sirte don't surrender then they ****ed big-time says the Rebels.Trouble is what will NATO do once the NTC Rebels shoot into the Libyan civilians of Sirte?UN Resolution 1973 said in March 2011 that NATO's intervention in Libya was to the protect the civilian population,however will that Resolution 1973 still say the same thing come Saturday once the 4 day deadline is up?What will NATO do when the Rebels attacks on Saturday and civilians are caught in the middle of it as Gaddafi Forces are using them as human shields?Will NATO have the brass balls and attack the Rebels aswell like they did with GADDAFI, since the resolution stipulates protection of civilians.If NATO allows the Rebels to fire into Sirte and then killing civilians then this whole Libyan thing was or has been about Gaddafi's Regime change and nothing more. The other thing is,these NTC are not what some in the Media and on this forum make them out to be.Why do I say that?You see the NTC appointed Albarrani Shkalil as Head of Security in Tripoli.Who is he and why did that appointment of his cause so much protest against the NTC's way of doing things in Libya? It's simple.This guy helped Gaddafi control Libya for years,and this spring he helped Gaddafi's 32nd Brigade launch it's assault on Misrata.In this assault,Shkalil,was operations officer for Khamis Gaddafi

      slg - 2011-08-31 08:25

      Un Resolution 1973 was aimed at protecting civilians from Gadhafi's attacks on them in his attempt to extend his 42-year brutal dictatorial rule and continue denying Libyans the right to vote. Nato has surgically (not perfectly) targeted Gadahfi's military resources that actually belong to the Libyan people, not Gadhafi, which Gadhafi has been using in his attacks. The Rebels were never contemplated when the resolution was promulgated. It therefore has no legal effect vis-a-vis the Rebels. End of story.

      slg - 2011-08-31 08:26

      Rebels who commit atrocities should be held accountable. There's no question of this. It is an agreed principle of war, which this is. The Geneva Convention is clear.

  • marco - 2011-08-31 01:14

    until he defected following the failed operation to crush Misrata.That was seen as an insult to those who died defending the city and 500 Libyans protested against their NTC.The NTC argued that they needed experienced people in position of authority if they are to make a success of this experiment in democracy. Already Rebels in Misrata said they don't recognize Shkalil or any orders from him. Not so rosy afterall. In Benghazi the s**t get's worse and very interesting indeed. Last month the rebel commander Abdel Fattah Younis was murdered in Benghazi. Rumour has it that it was a faction within the NTC coalition,the Islamist militia,that carried out the killing. The NTC did investigate the incident and said it knows the identity of the killers,but that they won't release the information in the "higher interests" of the reveluotion.Cracks in the NTC facade are beginning to show,it don't mean a civil war is looming,but they are strong warnings that if the NTC doesn't manage the division of power in the new Libya with great skill like Gaddafi did when ran the show,then all hell will break loose.NATO was so eager to get Gaddafi out of the way let's see how they and the UN respond to the K@K the NTC is about to cough up.

      slg - 2011-08-31 08:28

      There's little skill in what Gadhafi did when he ran the show: he threatened, maimed, killed and detained those who opposed him, and paid off those who didn't. The Mafia does it every day.

      marco - 2011-08-31 11:38

      You don't get it don't you.What is Gddafi's killing,maiming,threats,detaining to you anyway?Are you Libyan?Have you personally been treated this way by Gaddafi?So why do you make such a big deal of how Gaddadfi has been behaving?One as to think that he must have really messed you up somehow.It can't be for reasons other than you being an individual that wants to see a liberated Libya or a Democratic Libya does it?Democratic NATO nations have done similar if not worse things than Gaddafi and how is their way better than his?And don't tell me they haven't done so because that will show how naive you truly are in life.Gaddafi in particular must have *****ed with you somewhere along the line.Again are you Libyan if not that shut the **** up highlighting how bad Gaddafi is,cause NATO ain't any better. Let's see atrocities commited by NATO and the West. First up America: The My Lai Ma Massacre was the mass murder of 700 unarmed citizens in South Vietnam on March 16th,1968,conducted by 3 platoons of US troops from the "Charlie" company,the 1st battalion,20th infantry,11th infantry brigade,of the Americal Division of the United States Army which was formed in May 1942.They were part of Task Force Barker–the codename for a search and destroy mission.Sergeant Michael Bernhardt,who was at My Lai,was quoted in 1973 as stating that he saw no one who could have been considered to be of military age.He also stated that the US troops in My Lai met no resistance.Army photographer,

      marco - 2011-08-31 11:40

      Ronald Haeberie,witnessed a US soldier shoot two young boys who he believed were no more than five years of age.Other photos taken at the scene of the massacre show bodies of what can only be very,young children.They reported that some of the children had their throats cut. While 26 US soldiers were initially charged with criminal offenses for their actions at M? Lai, only 2nd Lt. William Calley, a platoon leader in charlie company, was convicted of killing 22 villagers. Originally given a life sentence,he served three and a half years under house arrest. Speaking of the confusing of man’s moral senses hey!Wonder what Gaddafi hate mongers will make of this? What about Britain? Bloody Sunday(1972)sometimes called the Bogside Massacre.It incident on 30th January 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry,Northern Ireland,in which 26 unarmed civil rights protesters and bystanders were shot by soldiers of the British Army.Thirteen males,7 of whom were teenagers,died immediately or soon after,while the death of another man four and a half months later has been attributed to the injuries he received on that day.Two protesters were also injured when they were run down by army vehicles.Five of those wounded were shot in the back.The incident occurred during a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march;the soldiers involved were the First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment.

      marco - 2011-08-31 11:41

      You see Gaddafi is evil.A tyrant,brutal dictator who needs to be removed from power,BUT so are NATO and their allies.NATO are no better as history points that out.Both are the the root of all evil in our society so don't be taking the moral high ground if you worse than the guy you condemn.Anatomy of Murder:NATO.

      slg - 2011-09-01 02:00

      No disrespect Marco, but you're seriously confused. You're equating a brutal dictatorship with democratic countries. It's obviously wrong. That Gadhafi has harmed Libyans, not me personally makes little difference. They're human beings. I have a responsibility to do whatever I can and choose to do to oppose this and support those being harmed. It would be heartless, lack compassion and understanding were I to do anything else. I would be emotionally disconnected from reality. Are you?

      marco - 2011-09-01 11:35

      slg You give me a speech on "heartless,lack compassion and understanding...emotionally disconnected from reality" and yet in the same breath,you say two things that are so vastly different that if one was true the other had to be false when you say "equating a brutal dictatorship with democratic countries.It's obviously wrong." What the **** is wrong with you I ask?How can an individual like you be so twisted in his thinking when the world is crying out for people to make rationale comments?Killing people,cutting the throats of 5 year olds,raping,mutilating innocent civilians,done by NATO countries,how is this NICER more CIVILIZED than what a brutal dictatorship does coming from democratic countries equally and equating? Like I said to you before mate and hopefully for the last time ever I'll reply to your garbage comments again and that's this:You a ****ing freak and a lunatic that dodges reality because you wear blinders put on by your warped thinking BOSSES in the West.A ****ing retard you are at best so **** you. Like I said before you have to be a Libyan national,since only heartless Gaddafi minded mentality would draw conclusions like you have done so here.

  • Werner van der Meulen - 2011-08-31 06:56

    "Hunt for Gaddafi is on" with a picture of Sadam ? Great reporting

  • scipio - 2011-08-31 07:31

    lol Gaddafi is actually Sadam? Who wrote this? Sipho?

      Clive25 - 2011-08-31 09:40

      maybe Piet

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