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. Blogson

    Ghadafi's having surrendered his nuclear capability a few years ago and joining the mainstream (Libya taken off the U.S.'s terrorist state list) and his reward at the hands of the U.S./NATO will only encourage other countries which are developing nuclear capability not to give that up.

    Ghadafi's whereabouts – given Saudi Arabia's history of granting deposed brutal rulers asylum, my money is on that country.

    August 23, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • db

      What better place for him to go after attemting to take Kind Abdols life. It will not be long before his is ended by the King.

      August 23, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. barney fife

    with a face like that.....he's going to need a serious make over

    August 23, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Moammar Gadhafi

    You will never find me hahahahahaha!!!!

    August 23, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • jfab

      i know exactly where u are you bought osamas old masion in pakistan for a very cheap price ull be hiding there for about ten years untill you are finally found and it will be another embaressing momment for pakistans military...... again

      August 23, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • ICU

      Hiding down some skunk hole with your tail tucked between your legs like Saddam I'll wager...

      August 23, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. BOB

    I cant imagine that he and his sons are still in Libya. Long before his fall he must have linked up with some other African or middle eastern dictator to plan his escape.

    August 23, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jeanne

    He is in Venezuela

    August 23, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rags

      Agreed. He's waiting for Hugo to die of cancer so he can take over and be the ruler again.

      August 23, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. banasy©

    I still like the Gene Simmons comment...

    August 23, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • barney fife

      actually....I still like the Colonel Mustard in the parlor with the candlestick

      August 23, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Angy

    crawford tx with bush. or maybe he is somewhere with dick cheney, because if he has a drop of oil he is under one of their beds.

    August 23, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. m

    He's in suburban Toronto, next door to Elvis.

    August 23, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. wilson

    They should check Pakistan, they known for hiding famous people.

    August 23, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. rustbam

    Obama will find him in a week or two easy. After all, it was 100% his doing that bin Laden was taken out. And if he does not find him, we may have to doubt the degree of his involvement in that story. Darn.

    August 23, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. db

    Start turning rocks over and I am sure he will be under one of them like a slithering snake.

    August 23, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. barney fife

    He's with Sarah Palin on her bus tour

    August 23, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  13. zooni

    So much for die to the last man. Gaddafi is just another greedy self serving oligarch.

    August 23, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. David Ford

    Richie....what kinna drugs you doin'??? lol

    August 23, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sam kohen

    Probably in Israel, where else?

    August 23, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
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