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. banasy©

    You've got my vote for funniest comment so far?

    Hey, raven!
    How's e.l.t, m.s?

    August 23, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    Shout out to Andy in Highland Park!
    I'm a Chitown girl, myself!

    August 23, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Canadian Genius

    He's in the basement playing Warcraft.

    August 23, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Moammar G

    I'm here, I'm here salamalekun... WHERE ARE MY GOATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 23, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lisa Masters

    I think people on any government asst. should have mandatory drug testing. you fail your out PERMANENTLY. I also think the government should put a crack down on all these disability claims. I know so many people whose life goal is to be on disability. I know so many people who can work and do under the table so to speak and get disability, food stamps, section 8 housing and free health care for them and the kids and now the government pays for them a cell phone! Why doesn't the government say "o you can't do this job anymore because you hurt your back, knee, you are morbidly obese and can't hold out to do a job, etc. so government will sponsor you an education 3 years max to train to do something you CAN do!" Also how about shutting down the lifetime pay for serving in office/ senate/ governor/ congress? Most hard working people would probably agree. I sent this comment to President Obama.

    August 23, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • J


      August 23, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Canadian Genius


      August 23, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOB

      What does this have to do with the article? You might have some type of learning disability.

      August 23, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cleareye

      Lisa Masters needs to find a job so she won't spend her days trashing her betters.

      August 23, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • I don't always read comments, but when I do, I want to downvote everything

      Can't tell if trolling or just really stupid...

      August 23, 2011 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • jj

      say what now?? your confused??/

      August 23, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Winkie Griffin

    It shouldn't take genius to figure out - it was the Khaddafy boys who floated the rumor they had been captured, then escaped. They wanted to distract and confuse the us and the rebels to cover up their father's run for it. Seif al_Islam obviously knew it was safe to go to the Rixos Hotel and show himself and make it look like he had the military backing to come and go. And we all bit big! Bet they find the tunnels led far out into the outskirts so they could flee without being seen.

    August 23, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. perry benton

    This posting feature is hit and miss . . . mostly miss.

    August 23, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. TriXen

    Imma buy him a red and white striped shirt and a beanie with a ball on it! Then he'll be easier to find!

    August 23, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. babetoo

    he is hiding in a spider hole somewhere. he is a coward, without his guards, he is running like hell.

    August 23, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cleareye

      Everyone would like to see his sorry ass dragged into a court somewhere and forced to answer for his behavior. Having him on a leash will really help to settle the anger in Libya.

      August 23, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bob F.

    He was trying to kiss his a$$ goodby when a round landed nearby and knocked his head up it.

    August 23, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rags

      Oh, I thought was his usual position!

      August 23, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mgiuel

    HE is with Casey Anthony-They both will come out at the same time.

    August 23, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cleareye

    The truth is that everyone would like to see his sorry ass dragged into a court somewhere and forced to answer for his behavior. Having him on a leash will really help to settle the anger in Libya.

    August 23, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. George Erinjeri

    When Tripoli was burning, Gadhafi was playing chess.

    August 23, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Snarky

    Gadhaffi took off fhis shades, shaved, showered and ditched his lame hat and no one would know it was him?

    August 23, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ProperVillain

    Typical tyrannical cowards. I hope him and his brood of miscreets are caught and stuck in the basement of a dank Libyan prison for the remainder of their days.

    August 23, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
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