24th August, 2011
Col. Muammar el-Gaddafi, whose 42-year reign as Libyan dictator ended yesterday, has made contacts with his friends and allies, assuring them that he was safe and hiding in an undisclosed area of the capital, Tripoli.
Gaddafi fled his Bab al-Aziziyaâ€™s fortress-like compound after six months of bloody war as the rebels ran madly across its sprawling lawns, ransacking its barracks for weapons and carting off mementos of his 42-year dictatorship.
In an address broadcast early today over a local Tripoli radio station, he called his retreat from the compound â€œtactical,â€ The New York Times reported.
He blamed months of NATO air-strikes for bringing down his compound and vowed â€œmartyrdomâ€ or victory in his battle against the alliance. It was the second such address by Colonel Gaddafi, 69, since his forces lost control of Tripoli.
Al-Jazeera television network reported this morning that Gaddafi may have fled to Zimbabwe, another African country where another dictator, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, has been in power since 1980. There was no official confirmation about this from Harare this afternoon.
Gaddafiâ€™s whereabouts are of grave concern to the new people in charge of the countryâ€™s affairs after a six-month battle to oust him. Western nations that had provided munitions and air bombardment support to the rebels have also expressed concern about the disappearance of the former leader.
Gaddafiâ€™s vow that he would â€˜fight to the endâ€™, even after he lost his compound to rebel soldiers has further increased anxiety that he should be captured, so that the task of rebuilding the battered nation and restoring the flow of oil supplies would start in earnest.
Reuters quoting the Russian head of the World Chess Federation said Gaddafi called Tuesday assuring that he was holed up somewhere in Tripoli.
Just where is Gaddafi and his sons, remains therefore a major question in the new Libya basking in the euphoria of a hard-won freedom.
As the waiting and guessing game about Gaddafi and his sons continue, the transition government based in Benghazi has pledged to honour all the oil contracts granted during the Muammar Gaddafi era, including those of Chinese companies, a staunch backer of Gaddafi. The United States is seeking to release between $1 billion and $1.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets to the TNC, according to State Department spokesman, Victoria Nuland.
A permanent Libyan government is due to be elected in the next eight months, Head of the Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, said.
He said in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that Muammar Gaddafi and his followers should be tried in Libya.
The rebel victory yesterday, backed by NATO air-strikes and seasoned reinforcements, was by no means complete.
Reporters in the city said they heard the sound of renewed NATO air-strikes against unspecified targets early on Wednesday. Dozens of reporters and other foreigners remained trapped in a luxury hotel, held there by pro-Gaddafi gunmen. A relief ship sent to pluck foreigners to safety was unable to dock because â€œthe situation is still too volatileâ€ around the port, a relief official said.
As crowds cheered into Tuesday night in the cityâ€™s Green Square, now Martyrsâ€™ Square, some Gaddafi militiamen were still fighting around the city, and the rebels acknowledged that even the Gaddafi compound, called Bab al-Aziziya, was not yet under their full control.
Still, the storming of the compound represented the fruition of an oft-repeated rebel vow: â€œWe will celebrate in Bab al-Aziziya,â€ the ultimate seat of power in the Gaddafi government.
The conquest was spearheaded by hundreds of experienced fighters from the port city of Misrata, who developed into some of the rebelsâ€™ best organised and most effective units after months of bitter fighting with elite loyalist forces.
Jubilant rebel fighters made off with advanced machine guns, a gold-plated rifle and Colonel Gaddafiâ€™s golf cart. One took the distinctive fur that Colonel Qaddafi wore in his first public appearance after the uprising began six months ago, The New York Times reported.
While the pillaging of Bab al-Aziziya was the most conclusive evidence yet that Colonel Gaddafiâ€™s rule was at an end, it was not yet clear how much his fall would do to pacify Gaddafi partisans who may feel they have much to lose from the rebelsâ€™ ascendance, especially while their leader remains at large.
In a further manoeuvre in the diplomacy surrounding the conflict, China today urged a â€œstable transition of powerâ€ in Libya and said it is in contact with the rebels Benghazi-based National Transitional Council, Reuters reported, suggesting that Beijingâ€™s allegiance has shifted. China â€œrespects the choice of the Libyan people and hopes for a stable transition of power,â€ Mao Zhaoxu, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said in a statement.
Rebel military commanders said that aside from the area around Bab al-Aziziya, they believed that only two other neighborhoods of Tripoli remained under the control of Gaddafi loyalists. One is Al Hadba. The other is Abu Salim, which includes the Rixos Hotel. A group of journalists have been trapped there for days, first by Colonel Gaddafiâ€™s guards and now by gunfire outside. On Tuesday the BBC reported that the hotel had come under attack as well, forcing the journalists to take shelter.
The death toll was impossible to assess. Doctors at a small clinic in the relatively safe neighbourhood of Jansur reported receiving 30 patients injured in the fighting, six of whom died overnight.