Muammar Gaddafi still untraceable, massive manhunt launched
Cairo, Aug 23: Forty-eight hours after rebel forces stormed into Libyan capital, Tripoli, the country's strongman Muammar Gaddafi remained untraced despite NATO powers deploying a "full array" of surveillance sensors to pinpoint his hideout.
The whereabouts of the 69-year-old man, who exalted himself as brother leader of his nation, remained unknown with speculation rife over his exit strategy.
Arab media reports said Gaddafi could be in neighbouring Algeria or in his remote stronghold of Sirte in southern Libya.
Al-Jazeera said other options floating around were Angola or Zimbabwe, which are both his close regional allies. But Pentagon believes he is still holed up in his Tripoli stronghold Bab al-Aziziya, on whose fringes a fierce battle was raging which could decide the fate of the oil-rich African nation as well as its first family for the last 42 years.
For all his bluster over the past few months as battle raged over his fate Muammar, Gaddafi was mysteriously absent and silent as the Libyan rebel forces encircled him.
Gaddafi has not been seen in public in last two months. His televised diatribes has stopped and the only indication to the West that he may be holed up in his stronghold is a series of fuzzy audio recordings -- the most recent of them on Saturday night in which he vowed not to leave Libya till the end.
Even his son Saif ul-Islam, who surfaced dramatically today rubbishing reports of his capture to take foreign newsmen on a tour of Bab al-Aziziya gave no inkling of his father's whereabouts.
The leader of the rebel movement Mustafa Abdul-Jalil admitted that he too did not know if Gaddafi was holded up inside the compound or had fled the country.
Amid reports that he could have fled to neighbouring Algeria or could be holed-up in a bunker, a large number of British and other NATO reconnaissance aircraft are now over Libya looking for the dictator and other regime leaders.
RAF Awacs airborne radar are believed to be tracking all civilian aircraft leaving Tripoli and elsewhere in case Gaddafi tries to flee by air, The Telegraph reported.
The US has also deployed Rivet Joint spy aircraft which will be monitoring all communications by mobile or satellite phone.
Intelligence sources quoted by the paper have however admitted that Gaddafi has been "extremely clever" in avoiding using of telephones knowing it could instantly pinpoint his position.
In addition British Sentinel reconnaissance aircraft will use their sophisticated Astor radar to track vehicle convoys heading into the desert.
In a meeting of the National Security Council, chaired by British Prime Minister David Cameron, ministers asked the military to "utilise all ISTAR (Intelligence Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance) assets" to find Gaddafi.
"We don't know when we might find him but he can rest assured, every eye we have is looking for him," the report quoted a Whitehall source as saying.
With an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant out for his arrest and few allies in the world, Gaddafi's options for exile are limited.
Any nation that is signatory to the ICC is duty bound to hand him over to the authorities at The Hague.
The desperate manhunt which the NATO has launched reflect Western fears that Gaddafi might follow the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's strategy by going deep underground to wage a guerrilla campaign.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 23 Aug 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 23 Aug 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Aug 2011 00:00:00 IST
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