Meanwhile, wire services reported Tuesday that two Libyan military convoys were headed from Libya into neighboring Niger. Reuters, citing military sources from France and Niger, said scores of army vehicles had crossed the desert frontier and were traveling through Niger, in what could be an effort to find asylum for Gaddafi in neighboring Burkina Faso, which has offered to shelter him.
The reports could not be independently confirmed, however. There was no indication that Gaddafi was with either of the convoys.
Most of the leads regarding the longtime leader’s whereabouts come from Gaddafi’s tribal heartland, a vast triangle of scrub and desert land between his coastal home town of Sirte, east of Tripoli; the oasis town of Bani Walid in the west; and the heavily garrisoned city of Sabha on the edge of the Sahara in the south.
Scarcely a day goes by without someone claiming to know exactly where Gaddafi is hiding within the triangle. The problem is that those who know do not always agree with one another.
On Monday, Anes el-Sharif, a member of the civilian-run Supreme Security Committee in Tripoli, said he had received solid information that Gaddafi had been seen 12 miles south of loyalist-held Sirte just two days earlier, preparing to head farther south toward Sabha.
But a member of the rebel’s ruling Transitional National Council said he was given “reliable information from a person close to Gaddafi” that put the former Libyan leader’s location closer to Bani Walid.
The manhunt for Gaddafi is an important priority both for the rebels and for many Libyan civilians who say they will not feel truly safe until the former dictator is captured or killed. Audio messages from Gaddafi threatening to turn Libya “into hell” have added to the sense of unease here.
On Tuesday, Gaddafi’s crumbling regime remained defiant, promising to resurrect its power structure.
“We are fighting and resisting for the sake of Libya and all Arabs,” Moussa Ibrahim, Gaddafi’s spokesman and the public face of his government, told Syria-based al-Rai television station. “We are still strong and capable of turning the table on NATO.”
Despite reports that Gaddafi was making plans to flee, Ibrahim told al-Rai that the longtime ruler was in “excellent health, planning and organizing for the defense of Libya.”
Two separate rewards of 2 million and 6 million Libyan dinars ($1.7 million and $5 million) have been offered for Gaddafi’s capture or death, officials said, which has helped encourage the flow of information but also prompted some rebels to go freelance in trying to catch him.