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LIBYA: Search for Kadafi goes on as rebels seize compound

August 23, 2011 | 11:17 am

Compound
Rebel fighters said they still did not have longtime leader Moammar Kadafi or his more powerful sons in custody Tuesday even as they laid siege to the family compound in Tripoli.

Rebels searched room to room in the sprawling Bab Azizia complex Tuesday for Kadafi, who has ruled the country for nearly 42 years. They tore down statues of the 69-year-old leader as they went, kicking the heads in the dirt, according to CNN and the BBC.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj, leader of the rebel forces, told CNN that Kadafi remained at large late Tuesday.

“Kadafi and his sons fled like rats," Belhadj said. "We haven't seen them, just traces of them."

Mahmoud Shammam, a Doha-based spokesman for the rebels' interim council, was more cautious.

"We don't know who is inside Bab Azizia. We believe that there is someone there and that he is leading a fierce battle. It is a symbol. This is the final castle of Kadafi," he told the Associated Press.

Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice president of the rebel's council, told Bloomberg that Kadafi probably isn’t in the compound.

“His children and some symbols of his regime may be in Bab Al Aziziya, but not him,” Ghoga said.
“As long as Kadafi remains in Libya, then there will be no security. He must be finished off either through death or capture. The fall of Kadafi is very necessary for the revolution to succeed. The hands of the revolutionaries will reach him, dead or alive.”

Some claimed to have spoken with Kadafi within the past 24 hours and said he remained in the capital.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the Russian head of the World Chess Federation who has known Kadafi for years, said he spoke with Kadafi by phone Tuesday.

Ilyumzhinov, who visited Kadafi in Libya in July, told Reuters that Kadafi's eldest son, Mohammed, called him Tuesday in Moscow.

“He gave the phone to his father, who said that he is in Tripoli, he is alive and healthy and is prepared to fight to the end,” Ilyumzhinov told Reuters.

The report could not be independently verified.

Kadafi's former right-hand man, Abdel-Salam Jalloud, told Al Jazeera that he thought the Libyan leader was on the outskirts of Tripoli, sheltered at homes, hotels and mosques.

A Pentagon spokesman said officials stood by their earlier assessment that Kadafi had not left the country.

 --Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: A rebel fighter gestures as he stands on the monument inside the main compound of Moammar Kadafi in Bab Azizia in Tripoli on Tuesday. Libyan rebels stormed the compound after fierce fighting with forces loyal to his regime that rocked the capital as the longtime leader refused to surrender. Credit: Sergey Ponomarev/Associated Press.

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