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The Hunt for Gaddafi

by FRANKLIN LAMB

Tripoli

Rumors and repeated rumors ricochet like shell casings off concrete walls this morning and depending on what one is inclined to believe, Libya’s former leader Colonel Gaddafi is safely in Algeria, his hometown of Sirte, Libya’s vast southern desert, in one of the labyrinthine tunnels very deep below his Bab al Azzia (splendid gate) barracks or in a south Tripoli flat with his sons.

At the moment those who know are not talking but NATO is considering authorizing its rebel leadership to offer a Saadam Hussein or Osama bin Laden sized reward, thinking that it would flush out “the leader.”

The former regime’s spokesman, the articulate Musa Ibrahim, emerged via phone this morning to say that the resistance to “NATO aggressors, colonists, and unbelievers” is about to begin and offering NATO yet another chance for a ceasefire and dialogue to avoid a bloodbath and threatened interminable civil war. Also this morning, as has been the case since March 19, 2011, NATO and its proxy National Transitional Council (NTC) team has rejected the offer and is widely believed among journalists and the remaining diplomats here to want only one achievement at the moment.  That would be, Gaddafi and his sons appearing from their lair and preferably, quite dead.

The NTC held a news conference last night with little substance to offer except a plea for the immediate release of funds and its expectation to take over the government offices in Tripoli when they are deemed safe.

Speaking of the release of funds, Libyan Government files (which need to be translated from the Arabic) made available to an American researcher purport to document some of the Libyan money stolen over the years by prominent NTC leaders as well as case files detailing Libyan blood on their hands. NTC leaders are being asked to return those funds before South Africa fully agrees on the total release of Libyan funds blocked by NATO members. With respect to former Justice Minister Abdel Jalil, now a key NTC leader and his offer to stand trial for crimes he is accused of committing including numerous death sentences handed out to regime detractors during his career in the Libyan Justice Ministry, that would appear to be a good first step if followed by other NTC figures.  It was Jalil, as Justice Minister between 2007 and 2011 who the UN Human Rights Council noted was responsible for the “intransigence” of the Libyan Court of Appeals, where he served as Chief Judge, in confirming the death sentences in the “Bulgarian nurses” HIV trial. When called upon to order investigations into extra-judicial killings between 2007-2011, Justice Minister Abdel Jalil refused claiming that he was unable to order an investigation into abuses by Internal Security Agency Officers because they had “state immunity”.

In another recent development, an American international lawyer has been asked by friends of certain Gaddafi family members to quickly put together an international legal team with American and international lawyers in case ICC arrest warrants result in individuals being transported to The Hague. There is much concern among individuals who support the former government that if a trial is held in Libya it will turn into another Saddam Hussein ‘kangaroo court” travesty of justice.

Many rumors are heard the past couple of days about the fate of Lebanon’s Shia Imam, Musa Sadr who disappeared  33 years ago this month while in Libya for talks and to attend the September 1, Great Fatah Revolution, annual celebration.  Two individuals who claim to have been present are talking about the killing of Musa Sadr and one is actually offering the buried remains of Musa Sadr and his companions, Sheikh Mohammed Yacoub and journalist Abbas Badreddine!  Gaddafi’s boyhood friend, and Libya’s longtime “Number Two Leader”, Abdel Salem Jalloud, according to one of his cousins here, claims the remains are in the Southern Libyan Desert while Iranian intelligence reported claims that the bodies were dumped at sea with concrete blocks attached.

Why Musa Sadr was killed also is the subject of much “inside information” by government officials and others here.  One high ranking Libyan official who represented this country in several countries over the past quarter century claims that when the truth comes out about who petitioned the Gaddafi regime to eliminate Musa Sadr, a very popular and charismatic force within the Shia community, it will condemn certain Lebanese officials, as well as some in Iran and Iraq, who saw Musa Sadr as gaining too much popular support, too fast, and who was deemed “politically and religiously unreliable.”  It appears that given the interest in the subject of Musa Sadr and his associates, and the number of living officials and witnesses with claimed knowledge of the events surrounding his brutal death that the truth may finally emerge before long.

During a meeting this morning with one high ranking officer in the Tripoli Brigade, which he reports was trained in March and April by US army special forces in the mountains near the Tunisian border southwest of Tripoli, some of their Tripoli based allies “jumped the gun” when they attacked Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli last Saturday. So the Tripoli Brigade moved fast to help out those who had revolted in Tripoli before NATO actually gave them the green light.  According to an officer of that brigade, NATO believes Gaddafi suckered them into Tripoli where he has 8000 troops hidden in South Tripoli and is getting ready to bleed the militia with urban warfare. NATO also is said to believe, as others here do, that Gaddafi is trying to lure the rebels to enter Warfalla tribal areas, where many of the 54 sub-tribes or clans are still working with Gaddafi.

The Warfalla tribe is Libya’s largest and played a key role in expelling the Italian colonizers, after initially being neutral, when the Italians entered their lands.

NATO is also said to be concerned about the various rebel militia, a very disparate affiliation, because the rebels are said to be engaging the last few days in taking control of certain areas — for example, along the port near our hotel — to use their territory as a political bargaining chip in coming days as in, “OK, we control this area, what do we get for it politically?” The same source, whose job is to liaise with NATO, claims that NATO expects Gaddafi to be able to fight for months and that he is currently unreachable,.  NATO is frantically trying to locate him and kill him while the TNC is said to want to put Gaddafi on trial.

Meanwhile the Russian Embassy has joined the International Red Cross and the Maltese Foreign Ministry here and reportedly announced one hour ago that boats will evacuate those who want to leave Libya — starting this afternoon and continuing tomorrow.  Like most of the other information circulating it’s all rumor at this point but the continuing violence here is real.

Franklin Lamb is in Libya and can be reached at fplamb@gmail.com


Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (sssp-lb.com).

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