Rebels declare victory as world wonders, Where on Earth is Moammar Gadhafi?
World Chess Federation chief Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, foreground, in June before a screen showing him playing chess with Gadhafi.
August 23rd, 2011
04:39 PM ET

Rebels declare victory as world wonders, Where on Earth is Moammar Gadhafi?

As rebels spread triumphantly through the streets of Tripoli and word of a siege on Moammar Gadhafi's compound is met with jubilation, one glaring question surfaces: Where is Libya's leader of more than four decades?

Some rebel officials say a key to true victory - which is already being declared by many rebels and their sympathizers - is the 69-year-old leader's capture. Observers say his future holds only three possible scenarios: capture, death or exile.

Despite regular promises to fight to the death in the early days of the rebellion, Gadhafi hasn't been seen publicly since June 12, just two weeks before the International Criminal Court issued arrests warrants for him, one of his sons and a brother-in-law, alleging "crimes against humanity." Officials at the ICC have made clear they want the Gadhafis to stand trial in The Hague, Netherlands, if possible.

Gadhafi's June 12 appearance aired on Libyan state television and showed Gadhafi, apparently unfazed by the warfare raging in his homeland, playing chess with World Chess Federation President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

At the time, Ilyumzhinov quoted Gadhafi as saying he had no intention of leaving Libya. The tune hadn't changed Tuesday when Russia's Interfax news agency caught up with Ilyumzhinov, reporting the chess federation chief had spoken with Gadhafi and his son, Mohammed, by phone and was told the Libyan leader is "alive and well in Tripoli and not going to leave Libya."

The Russian news report could not be independently confirmed, but many observers and at least one American official believe Gadhafi remains in Tripoli.

Wherever he is, professor Abubaker Saad, a former Gadhafi aide, told CNN on Tuesday that he doubted Gadhafi would hide in the warren of bunkers under his Tripoli compound.

"You have to remember that he is a military man," Saad said. "He knows they have weapons that could penetrate those bunkers. That's why I'm dismissing the idea that he's still in there."

Considering Gadhafi's public communications of late, which have demonstrated a deteriorating audio quality, Saad said the Libyan leader could be "speaking from a distance."

Given the amount of time since his last public appearance, Gadhafi's whereabouts is a matter of sheer speculation. Early suggestions were that Gadhafi might flee to a neighboring country, maybe Algeria, Tunisia or Chad.

Mahmoud Shammam, minister of information for the rebels' National Transitional Council, has said he heard reports that Gadhafi could be near the Algerian border, but "I'm not ruling out anything."

Other analysts have ventured that he may still be in Libya, either in the capital, as Ilyumzhinov claims, in his hometown of Sirte or in the nation's largely uninhabited desert region or western mountain region, areas so vast or untamed it would be difficult to find anyone there.

An American official speaking on condition of anonymity, however, said he has seen nothing to support that Gadhafi is in Sirte and said he is most likely still in the capital.

One of the more intriguing hypotheses placed Gadhafi in the basement of the Rixos Hotel, which isn't a likely candidate for bombing or attacks because it is housing many members of the Western media.

As The Atlantic magazine points out, Gadhafi has strong ties to the African Union - which has promised not to cooperate with the ICC warrant - so there are several countries on the continent where the Libyan leader might go into exile.

The magazine nixed Algeria and South Africa as possibilities but said Gadhafi could still seek safe haven in Equatorial Guinea, Tunisia or Zimbabwe. Outside of Africa, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia are options, though Christopher Boucek, a Saudi Arabia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told CNN that the latter is unlikely given that the kingdom has accused Gadhafi of attempting to assassinate King Abdullah in 2004.

Venezuela presents an interesting scenario, however. Though the South American country is one of 116 nations to ratify the statute empowering the ICC (Tunisia's inclusion goes into effect next month), Chavez has been an ardent supporter of Gadhafi and has characterized NATO's campaign in Libya as "imperialist intervention" aimed at seizing the nation's oil.

It seems unlikely, given that Gadhafi has said he refuses to recognize the ICC's authority, that the Libyan leader would seek refuge in any state that is party to the court - with the exception of Venezuela and certain African Union members.

Again, though, Gadhafi's whereabouts is a guessing game at this point, and NATO spokesman Col. Roland Lavoie perhaps was the most frank when asked Tuesday where Gadhafi might be.

After explaining that the regime is near its end and that Gadhafi is "not a key player anymore," Lavoie conceded he didn't "have a clue" where the Libyan leader is hiding.

"If you know, let me know," he said.

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Filed under: Human rights • Libya • Military • NATO • Protest • World
soundoff (201 Responses)
  1. Ben

    Third street in Santa Monica. It's a great place to hide!

    August 23, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • alura

      lol...actually the most feasible idea is that he's in Venezuela with his good buddy...I wouldn't be surprise!

      August 23, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim F.

      Naw, – I think I saw him in Detroit.

      August 23, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Steve

    Where is Valdo...

    August 23, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Hugo Chavez

    Gadhafi is still closing the deal with NATO, France, UK and USA to see ow much he will keep and ensuring a castle for him and his kids in Dubai.

    August 23, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. katmoondaddy

    He's in America wearing a disguise and he calls himself Gene Simmons.

    August 23, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • JimmyFlim

      Brilliant!

      August 23, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. 7113

    The word is out he's staying with relatives in Martha's Vineyard, MA, Then he's going to tour Washington DC. Then off to Wally World.

    August 23, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Hugo Chavez

    He called me a while ago and told they can keep his wives but urgently send his goats

    August 23, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Andrew

    He's hiding like the bigmouthed bi@ch that he is.

    August 23, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. raven

    @katmoondaddy: That cracked me up ! They DO share a common hair(ahem)style!

    August 23, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. edgar

    Well chances are that he is with his good body Obama.... Oh wait Obama now said the Gadhafi must Go!.... Well let me check what Obama stand is now because every 5mins things change...

    August 23, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      Why do so many ignorant people have to always make some idiotic thing up, like a relationship between Gahdafi and Obama? So you don't like Obama. We get that. Just don't make stupid accusations that have no merit. There are plenty of things to criticize him for that are legit.

      August 23, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JohnRJ08

    Marina del Rey. He'd fit right into that population.

    August 23, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JeffinIL

    I've seen videos posted. I'm trying a photo

    August 23, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • JeffinIL

      Well, clearly that didn't work.

      August 23, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cw

    Abbottabad pakistan

    August 23, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • chadurhicks

      Hahahaha! LOL!

      August 23, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kerry

    Gadhafi is with the Morlocks.....

    August 23, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. David

    With that little hat, he could be posing as Santana on his latest tour.

    August 23, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Andy

    Hey Hugo! I have his goats and will send them forthwith...just give me the address. Actually, I think I just saw him delivering mail to my house in Highland Park, IL.

    August 23, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hugo Chavez

      Amigo Andy, please send them to my Palacio Presidencial here in Venezuela! By the way, the mail man wasn't him, that was Saddam Hussein!

      August 23, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
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