TRIPOLI, Libya — Libya’s new rulers believe Moammar Gadhafi may be hiding in the southern desert under the protection of ethnic Tuareg fighters, while two of his sons are holed up in cities besieged by revolutionary forces elsewhere in the North African nation, officials said Wednesday.
Anti-Gadhafi fighters gained control of Tripoli and much of the rest of the country late last month, but the longtime Libyan ruler and his family fled and have been trying to rally supporters from hiding as fighting continues on three fronts — Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte, Bani Walid and the southern city of Sabha.
Col. Ahmed Bani, the military spokesman for the National Transitional Council, which is now governing the country, said he couldn’t confirm any information about Gadhafi’s whereabouts but he could say that Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, is in Bani Walid and another son Muatassim is in Sirte.
Although Bani offered no evidence and did not elaborate, it was the first official confirmation that the revolutionary forces believe they know the location of the two sons since the family fled after Tripoli fell.
Another military official said earlier that the Libyans have intelligence that Gadhafi is hiding in the vast southern desert, possibly in an area near the Algerian border, with help from Tuareg fighters. Ethnic Tuaregs, whose nomadic community spans the desert border of Niger, Mali, Libya, Algeria and Chad, are among Gadhafi’s strongest remaining supporters.