Tuesday, August 23, 2011

But where is Qaddafi??? (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 8:02 p.m. EDT: Al Jazeera is one of many of several media reporting that Qaddafi left his compound as a "tactical" move, though it offered no indication where he went or when he fled.

Meanwhile, AFP reports that multiple journalists representing Western-news organizations remained unable to leave their hotel because they are being held by forces loyal to Qaddafi.
With electricity and water cut off and no staff, the 30 or so journalists, including an AFP reporter, were grouped on the first floor of the Hotel Rixos, wearing helmets and flak jackets and listening to the sounds of gunfire outside.

As the capital erupted in celebratory gunshots after rebels stormed and captured Gaddafi's heavily fortified compound, their guards denied that Tripoli was falling into the hands of the insurgents.

As stray bullets struck the hotel, the correspondents hung banners on the outside, reading "Television, press, don't shoot."
An Associated Press reporter also is stuck in the hotel. He offered this assessment of what has taken place.
Every modern war has had its hotels serving as de facto media centers, equipped with necessary services such as telecommunications and electricity generators. In Beirut's 1980s civil war, it was the Commodore. In the Balkans, it was Sarajevo's Holiday Inn, and during the U.S. invasion of Iraq it was Baghdad's Palestine Hotel.
The hotels, considered relatively safe in a war zone, often are selected for their rooftop views of combat. They are made known to governments and rebel forces alike in the hope that both sides will deem it in their interest to respect the neutrality of the base and allow journalists to do their jobs.
But it doesn't always work out that way. A hotel on the sidelines at the start of a conflict may suddenly find itself engulfed in fighting. Or a beleaguered government may decide to restrict reporters as part of a propaganda campaign.
The Rixos has been so cut off that we often haven't even been able to tell who was in control of the streets outside. Over the weekend, the area appeared to be in government hands. As rebels approached, our minders got jittery, then belligerent.
ORIGINAL POST: The storyline (so far) today is that the National Transitional Council forces have stormed the compound where Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi has lived. Based on media reports, it appears their assault on the compound began this morning (U.S. EDT) and has continued all day.

The video and live pictures I am watching on the English-language service of al Jazeera suggest that the raid has been successful. But there remains an undetermined and important question -- where is Qaddafi?

The Wall Street Journal picks up that part of the story in its most-recent dispatch from Tripoli.
It wasn't immediately clear whether Col. Gadhafi or members of his immediate family were in the compound when it was breached by the rebels, but battle's ferocity led many to speculate that the longtime leader may have been inside.
The report that rebels were celebrating within the walls of Col. Gadhafi's symbolic stronghold came after two days of whipsawing reports out of the Libyan capital over what appears to be the final phase of Libyan rebels' six-month battle to oust the world's longest-tenured current ruler.
The Atlantic suggests that Qaddafi remains in Tripoli, although capturing him will be difficult.
It certainly looks like Qaddafi is bunkering up for one final stand. According to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the Russian head of the World Chess Federation and a friend of Qaddafi's, the Libyan leader today told Ilyumzhinov that he is still in Tripoli. He's almost certainly still in Libya, as U.S. officials believe; the man has few other places he can go and, with rebels controlling all exit points, no way to get there. His forces still control his hometown of Surte and parts of Tripoli, including the area surrounding the Bab al-Aziziya military compound.
Let's not forget that the National Transitional Council had one of Qaddafi's sons, Saif al-Islam, in custody, only to somehow lose him. He was parading through parts of Tripoli last night, though there is no sense of where he is today.

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