LONDON | Wed Sep 28, 2011 7:54am EDT
(Reuters) – Muammar Gaddafi is believed to be hiding near the western town of Ghadamis near the Algerian border under the protection of Touareg tribesmen, a senior Libyan military official said.
“One tribe, the Touareg, is still supporting him and he is believed to be in the Ghadamis area in the south,” Hisham Buhagiar, a senior military official of the Libya’s new leadership, told Reuters by telephone late on Tuesday.
Buhagiar, coordinator of the hunt for Gaddafi, said the ousted Libyan leader was believed to have been in the southern town of Samnu a week ago before moving to Ghadamis, which lies 345 miles southwest of Tripoli.
He said Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam was in Bani Walid and another son, Mutassem, was in Sirte, the family’s home town.
“They are both thinking about leaving Libya maybe to Niger,” Buhagiar added.
Sirte, one of the last bastions of support for Gaddafi, is encircled by forces of Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) and under bombardment from NATO warplanes.
Taking Sirte, 450 km east of Tripoli, would bring the NTC closer to gaining control of the whole country, a goal that has eluded it more than a month after its fighters seized the capital.
Buhagiar said most tribes in the south were against Gaddafi except for the Touareg, who still supported him.
“There has been a fight between Touareg tribesmen who are loyal to Gaddafi and Arabs living there (in the south). We are negotiating. The Gaddafi search is taking a different course,” Buhagiar said, without elaborating.
Gaddafi’s daughter Aisha, her brothers Hannibal and Mohammed, their mother Safia and several other family members fled to Algeria in August and have lived there since.