LIBYA: Kadafi whereabouts unknown, speculation abounds
After nearly 42 years in power, Kadafi was nowhere to be seen or heard in Tripoli on Monday — unlike Sunday, when he issued a series of audio messages calling on supporters to resist rebel forces who had descended on the city.
"I am in Tripoli … I am with you until the end," Kadafi said.
Then he disappeared.
A large number of British and NATO reconnaissance planes were flying over Libya Monday looking for Kadafi and other leaders in his regime, the Daily Telegraph reported. British airborne radar were reportedly tracking all civilian aircraft leaving Tripoli in case Kadafi tries to flee by air.
"We have no confirmation of Kadafi's whereabouts," British Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday, after he returned from his summer vacation to deal with events in Tripoli.
Mahmoud Nacua, Libya's new diplomatic envoy to London, told The Guardian: "We don't know exactly where he is, but the fighters will look to find him. Maybe it will be hours or days, I don't know, but his era is over."
Rumors of Kadafi’s whereabouts were flying online and in the media.
Kadafi faces an arrest warrant from the international criminal court, which would theoretically limit his destinations. However, similar warrants have not crimped the travel plans of other embattled leaders, such as Sudan’s President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir, who continued to travel to countries that do not recognize the international criminal court.
Al Arabiya satellite network reported that Kadafi was in the Tajura Cardiac Hospital east of Tripoli.
A rebel spokesman in London said Kadafi, 69, who last appeared in public in May, might have already fled to neighboring Algeria, whose leaders had opposed NATO intervention in Libya.
There were also claims that the South African government (which recognizes the international criminal court) had sent planes to ferry Kadafi to an undisclosed location (South African leaders refuted the rumors).
Pentagon officials have said they believe Kadafi is still in Libya. An unnamed diplomat told Agence France-Presse that Kadafi was still in Tripoli Monday and could be in his huge Bab Aziziya compound.
Kadafi’s own words support this theory. Last month, Kadafi declared during an audio broadcast that "I will never leave the land of my ancestors or the people who have sacrificed themselves for me."
Others have speculated that Kadafi may have retreated from the capital to one of his strongholds: Surt, the western coastal town where he was born and may have stockpiled weapons, or Sabha, the southern desert town where he could make his escape across the border to Chad.
Last week, Kadafi apparently asked neighboring countries — including Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia — to shelter his family, according to a spokesman for the rebels' Transitional National Council.
Video footage surfaced purporting to show a rebel attack on a compound belonging to Kadafi’s daughter Aisha, but the video could not be independently verified.
Photo: Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi salutes his armed forces during a parade in Tripoli in September 1999. As rebels descended on the Libyan capital Monday, the longtime leader's whereabouts were unknown. Credit: Stringer/Reuters.
Video: Rebels claimed to have attacked the compound of Moammar Kadafi's daughter, Aisha, Monday, but video footage of the alleged attack could not be independently verified. Credit: YouTube.