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. fedupwithla

    Oh, where, oh, where has Gadhafi gone?

    Oh, where, oh, where can he be?

    With his ears cut short, and his tail cut long,

    Oh, where, oh, where can he be?

    August 23, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joseph E. Brown


      August 23, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ismail Ayachi

      may be he is in polisario areia between Algeria and Morocco he give the polisario wepen for many years?

      August 23, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dc3gal

    His family is more then likely already out of the country is he hasn't been seen publicly since June 12th. But if he hasn't gone with them, he probably is in those bunkers or in the basement of the hotel as mentioned. The man is a coward regardless. Doesn't matter if one or all of his sons were captured, he should've stayed with his captured sons. But he really doesn't care. Going to be very interesting to see how this plays out. Don't forget, Saddam was found in a bunker!

    August 23, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Wldcat

    Saw a pic purporting to be him dead, probably fake.

    August 23, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. alrfonds

    Gadhafi is in the Oval Room with his Muslim friend, Obama,

    August 23, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      oh boy, here we go...

      August 24, 2011 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Lionstyle

      Get your head out of your ass! Shame on you for equating the President to the Libyan Dictator! Un-American doooooog!

      August 24, 2011 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
  5. School Marm

    Dear john s:

    Well, if he is in the hotel, tell all the reporters to get out, then blow it up. Done deal, check out time for the RAT.

    You might want to check Trump's house. I heard he was his best friend. Loser FAT RAT.

    Well, it looks like Obama’s will be a one term Presidency. It's too bad; I thought he had moxie and would turn the country around. Again we had political promises made to get him elected to office. Let's hope we don't listen to the next guy give us false hope.

    Now, isn't that better?

    August 23, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ismail Ayachi

    onlly 1 plice he culd go is between Algeria and morocco culd polisario because he is first one to give thime wepen to fight aginset Morocco he could go there?

    August 23, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Air Fonz

    Ayeeeee... *Thumbs Up*

    August 23, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. peace

    He's hiding! Come out! Be a real man, you coward!

    August 23, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Zoot

    Gadhafi is currently on sesame street. I hear sesame street is a really seedy part of town.

    August 23, 2011 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MRockie1

    Some of the more powerful African Union countries like Nigeria and South Africa probably are harboring him. NATO will not be able to touch him in that case.

    August 23, 2011 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. liarbarry


    August 23, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bigdanusa

    He's downstairs parging my basement.

    August 24, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  13. OrangeSunshyne

    Momar is a PU55Y.
    He will not fight to the death.
    He's probably trying to weasel his way into Chad.
    He will join Osama and Sadham in H E L L soon.

    August 24, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jerry

    Check the hole Saddam Hussein was hiding in. That's where this rat is hiding.

    August 24, 2011 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  15. Leo from East Texas

    He is undergroud like a mole or gofer......He's been in power like 40 something years.....You know see's got a hideing place......Probley (miss spelled ) in th e desert somewhere....He has already lost.... he knows it ....Now it's catch me if you can.......

    August 24, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
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