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. Fred S.

    When did Amerika's nutty crusade to junk all the Islamic countries start anyway? Nixon or was it that utter moron Eisenhower?

    August 24, 2011 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Pragmaclast

      When did you stop beating your wife?

      August 24, 2011 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. debbie s in kcmo

    he probably left the country months ago

    August 24, 2011 at 1:58 am | Report abuse |
  3. ET

    OK taking a close look at those chess pieces. Looks a little crowded and not making any sense. What's up with that?

    August 24, 2011 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
  4. jesse

    The new game, Where in the world is Gadhafi? It's just like that old game/gameshow Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? In all seriousness though, have they not thought that he probably has a massive subterainian bunker under the populated area as a safe house for just such emergencies? He did have a lot of time and cash on hand to have it built.

    August 24, 2011 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
  5. Cityofjoy

    Gaddafi is hiding like a coward . He is a dictator like Saddam . When there time is up, they go into hiding . Big words ... nothing more .

    August 24, 2011 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
  6. LeaAnn B

    Might want to check Pakistan. I heard a mansion securely located near a military base became available a few months ago.

    August 24, 2011 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
    • ET

      OK that was funny. LMAO

      August 24, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  7. akud


    August 24, 2011 at 2:31 am | Report abuse |
  8. Raebo

    Where O where did that butt ugly little terrorist go?

    Check Obamas house in Pakistan.

    The Pakies were harbouring Osama they just might be entertaining a new guest.

    August 24, 2011 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
  9. Sleuth1.5

    Why is everyone scratching their heads on the wehereabouts of Gaghafi and his clan? The way he thinks, like a rat, he's right under the noses of all the international journalists. Just check the secret compartments of the hotel's dungeon-like passage ways. How else can his son pop in and out in front of the journalists with the rest of the city overrun with the rebels?

    August 24, 2011 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
  10. Actually, the World is wondering... many rebels were murdered by Gadhafi's troops, and the 50,000 paid mecenary troops recruited by Israel's MOSSAD. (as NATO bombs a community, men, women, and children flee their homes...thousands of them. 10s of thousands. Upon returning, they are attacked as "rebels". Killed, maimed, beaten into submission. How many faithful muslims who would NEVER side with the invading infidels have been slaughtered? The media won't even venture a guess.

    August 24, 2011 at 6:25 am | Report abuse |
  11. George Patton

    Another blow to Islam and another great victory for Capitalism and the right-wing thugs in Washington as the right-wing news media loves to brag about! Another thing they won't tell us is just how many civilians were slaughtered by these so-called "rebels" who are in NATO's pockets as that might spoil their field day!!!

    August 24, 2011 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  12. Andy bad. Thanks Hugo for straightening that out (I KNEW he looked familiar). Latest development: Moammar was spotted last night in the audience of Late Show with David Letterman.

    August 24, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  13. Actually, the World ISN'T wondering.... just like to lecture. Please site your sources.

    August 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Sorin

    This message was posted in leftie Globe & Mail (Canada) at 3:38 PM on Aug 21 and erased by GM. In the meantime a tornado hit Goderich, a place where I liked to go and a quake struck Washington. What should happen to this G&M censors? On Aug 19, in Zawiya there were mass demonstrations pro Ghaddafi.
    Watch my clips on youtube – user firstconservative
    There is a lot of misinformation in North America main media (left or so called right). About God and “God is great”- give me a break! Rebels are using God, as so called Canadian conservatives used God to win elections. The non believers greens -sic- (aks Zandoli here) are supporting the Ghadaffi believers. Nowdays is hard to find an independent journalist to tell the truth. In Canada, we need Who is who in the media.

    lizzy phelan- misinformation about Tripoli, Aug 20, 2011

    “This makeshift and fluctuating army, which announces a victory every other day, has in fact been collecting defeat after defeat. Every battle recreates the same scenario, with each NATO bombardment forcing the population to flee their homes. Thus, the town is quickly run over by rebel forces who announce they have gained ground. Only then does the battle begin. The Libyan army enters the town and massacres the rebels. At that point, the population safely returns to the partially destroyed village…..[…].”




    Jalili, pick up the arms and go in front battle, do not wait in the trenches for your rebels to win the battle. Ghaddafi’s sons are fighting.

    August 24, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. saywhat

    The Libyan diaspora now taking charge is little known in the West. Tribals, religious fringes, moderates, ex-military, even elements of Al-Qaeda. Were civilians targeted by the rebels also? That has to be determined too.
    It will take a while for things to coalesce and some sort of united leadership to emerge. What shape & form future governance takes is also an unknown.
    One thing is clear though Its People Power that triumphed over military might. Those countries which meddled , did so in their own economic or poltical agenda. Without factoring in the aftermath. If it was toppling Qaddhafi then it was achieved. Now what?

    August 24, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
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