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. w7rkd

    He's in Venezuela with Chavez

    August 23, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. cheryl

    I think we had a pre quake shake around 10:00 am
    this morning in St.Albans,wv myself and many of my nieghbors felt it we were all outside wondering what
    had happened.

    August 23, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      I think you are in the wrong story ma'am

      August 23, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mountainman

    My bet is that he is in or under the hotel where the reporters are being held.

    No other reason for them being held there.

    August 23, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. us1776

    Gadhafi is somewhere under the Rixos.


    August 23, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • us1776

      He just ordered room service.


      August 23, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. IBON4IT

    Russia, obviously. It has the perfect mix of corruption and vast geography to disappear in luxury any escaping dictator on the go – as long as he packs plenty of gold. Gadhafi is many things, stupid is not one of them.

    August 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sean

    He's in Pakistan...this one was easy.

    August 23, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Barry G.

    I'm guessing that Gadhafi's hiding, like a coward, just like Nero did, when the people of Rome turned against him.

    The Roman emperor Nero was a cruel and vile man. He, too, fled like a coward, when the people rose up against him.

    I suspect that Gadafi has stashed away an enormous amount of money, which he stole from the good people of Libya. If so, he should be forced to return the money to the rightful owners, the good people of Libya.

    August 23, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Hugo Chavez

    Hey guys, this is Comandante Chavez, viva Simon Bolivar and the revolution! No worries, no se preocupen, don't worry, Gadhafi is here with me making love, along with my other eternal and big love, Fidel and Raul Castro... and the product of our love, our baby will be called Ga-cha-fi (Gadafhi, Chavez, Fidel)

    August 23, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • paul1121

      My Kommandant, Ruler of the World, Executioner at your whim, Pretender of being a supporter of the people while stocking up cash. ZO! Is Gadhafi in your Empire?

      August 23, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hugo Chavez

      Si, my dear Paul, he is here shaking like a Chihuahua in winter... he is not as brave as he used to pretend. We are actually doing a contest of who is the ugliest one of the 2 of us. Dejame aclarar Ilet me clarify) that this is the second round because Fidel and Round won the first round.... both are ugly like the rear of a dirty camel! I need to say that Comandante Kadafi (that;s how we pronounce it in Spanish) is missing his prefered goat! Pobre bebé!

      August 23, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Allan C

      buajajajajajajajajajaja what a lot of funny comments !!!! you guys just make my day jajajaja

      August 23, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. paul1121

    Where is he? I thought he and his son's were going the Hitler bunker thing.

    August 23, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. DO HIM NOW

    He should be executed the moment he is found.....6 bullets to his head should do the trick.....he should not even be allowed to pray....stood up against a wall and executed!!!!!

    August 23, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rags

      He doesn't know how to pray but he surely knows how to prey.

      August 23, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bellabiv Devot

    I heard he was in Aruba sharing a hot tub with Carmen San Diego.

    August 23, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. BobZemko

    Is this like a sequel to "Where's Waldo?"

    August 23, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bill

    He's probably with Carmen Sandiego. Or Waldo.

    August 23, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JJ

    Gaddafi's probably holed up in a bunker somewhere with one of his cronies: Dick Cheney

    August 23, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mickeymo

    LOL...last drop of blood my a$$. He's a coward. Prolly hiding like Sadam.

    August 23, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
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