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. barney fife

    the guy has to be pretty worried about who gets to him first.............

    August 23, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darth Tom

      I feel sorry for the Libyans. Now they are going to have to spend all night digging through every stinking dumpster in Tripoli to find the one he's covering at the bottom of.

      August 23, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Findme

    Guys guys guys ... In fact he is still in Libya in a parallel dimension ... the war is in one and Ghadafi is in the other but still in Libya!

    August 23, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jfab

    hes probably moved in with charley sheen then they are gonna be a reality tv show about them being roomates

    August 23, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • MaoBinHitler

      best idea EVER.

      Ill bet charlie sheen would KILL to get whatever it is gadaffi is always high on.

      August 23, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. awdam

    Somewhere playing with his "made in china" all ah doll

    August 23, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. awdam

    somewhere playing with his made in china mo-hame-head doll!

    August 23, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Abu Hamza Is A Ghost Hahaha... This is dumb

    August 23, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. 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. What should happen to this G&M censors? On Aug 19, in Zawiya there were mass demonstrations pro Ghaddafi. Quake in USA today…
    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…..[…].”

    August 23, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. I'm lookin but...

    where's Waldo?

    August 23, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. David M

    Where is Libya's leader of more than four decades? I'm telling you, he's either in N.Korea or Venezuela. What other country is stupid enough to give him cover??

    "Observers say his future holds only three possible scenarios: capture, death or exile". The first two scenarios are pretty much one and the same. If he's captured, death will quickly follow. His only hope is exile. He may want to get a new hair style. The one he has is signature for him.

    August 23, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. grant

    He is or soon will be in Venezuela. Facts – Chavez quickly moved all gold out of the US and Great Britain and all cash reserves out of the US and Europe into Russia and China in anticipation of backlash for accepting Gaddafi.

    August 23, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. totty

    What if he goes to IRAN ?

    August 23, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • David M

      Maybe he will (or did) go to Iran. Moammar and Prez Imadimlightbulb deserve each other.

      August 23, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. NoTags

    Moammar is on the way to South Carolina to join Jim DeMint's tea party.

    August 23, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. grant

    if Gaddafi is with Chavez, maybe they can both go to Cuba – one for more cosmetic surgery, the other for more cancer treatment since there are no good doctors left in Venezuela

    August 23, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jueceman

    He's in America, serving doughnuts and coffee, duh

    August 23, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. banasy©

    Charlie and the Oil Sheen Factory.
    Coming soon to a theater near you.

    August 23, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
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