Gadhafi whereabouts remain mystery; Niger denies he is in that country

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TRIPOLI, Libya — Moammar Gadhafi’s whereabouts
remained a mystery Wednesday, one day after reports of a southbound
desert convoy raised suspicions that the deposed Libyan leader might be
seeking sanctuary in sub-Saharan Africa.

Officials
of Libya’s rebel administration have given contradictory statements
about Gadhafi’s whereabouts in recent days, a pattern that continued
Wednesday. One rebel military official told The Associated Press that
Gadhafi was cornered, while another military aide said the rebels didn’t
know the ex-leader’s whereabouts.

“I’m not sure anyone knows where he is,” said an official of the transitional government, who asked not to be named.

Earlier
in the day, officials in the neighboring nation of Niger denied that
Gadhafi or any of his sons had entered their country or that a large
convoy had even crossed the border from Libya. Niger’s foreign minister
described the convoy as fewer than a dozen vehicles — not the more than
200 that other reports had cited.

Suspicion about
where Gadhafi might be hiding seemed to focus on Libya’s vast southern
desert, which shares porous borders with Niger, Chad, Algeria and the
Sudan. Gadhafi still has many supporters in the south and he cultivated a
robust relationship with sub-Saharan African nations, bestowing aid
liberally and cultivating the image of himself as a “guide” for the
continent.

Gadhafi, who ruled Libya for almost 42
years, is presumed to have fled Tripoli last month as rebel forces took
the capital. He has not been seen in public in months, though he has
been heard in several defiant audio tapes pledging resistance and
calling for a guerrilla war against Libya’s new rulers.

A
spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, who himself is in hiding, has called news
media outlets to assert that Gadhafi remains in Libya and has no
intention of leaving.

Rebel authorities say it is
important to capture or kill Gadhafi so that everyone knows that he is
not coming back and that a new era has begun for Libya. The interim
government has vowed to put him and several of his sons on trial.

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©2011 the Los Angeles Times

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