His government has collapsed, but Muammar Qaddafi remains able to elude capture:
TRIPOLI, Libya — In another confusing round of claims and counterclaims by the Libyan rebels, a spokesman for their most powerful militia commander said Wednesday that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi had been cornered in the Sahara, a report dismissed by a spokesman for the transitional government’s military.
Rebel leaders as well as officials in neighboring Niger said, meanwhile, that neither Colonel Qaddafi nor two of his most powerful sons had fled to that country, contrary to speculation after news organizations reported that 200 or more armed vehicles had headed there.
The State Department said that only 20 to 25 Libyans had crossed the border into Niger this week. They were being detained at government villas, pending discussions with the transitional Libyan authorities, said the department’s spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland.
Adding to the confusion, news agencies reported that Colonel Qaddafi said in an audio broadcast on Thursday that he would never leave Libya and urged his supporters to continue to fight the rebels. The authenticity of the message, broadcast on Al-Rai TV in Syria, could not be verified.
The report that Colonel Qaddafi had been cornered came from Anis Sharif, the spokesman for Abdel Hakim Belhaj. Mr. Belhaj is the chairman of the Tripoli Military Committee and the leader of one of the biggest rebel militias.
Mr. Sharif said a number of rebel units had converged on an area in the desert where they had confirmed the presence of the fugitive Libyan leader. “We are waiting for the right moment to move in, and in the meantime we are tracking his movements,” Mr. Sharif said. “He doesn’t have a very strong protection with him, not as much protection as we had expected. He only moves at night to avoid NATO airstrikes.”
Mr. Sharif declined to identify the location, other than to say it was in the Sahara, which occupies more than half of southern Libya. He said that rebel forces had advanced to within 40 miles of Colonel Qaddafi’s location and that they had surrounded the area.
“He cannot escape,” he said, adding that he expected the rebels to move in soon.
Recent events would indicate otherwise. In any event, it raises a question, if Qaddafi is able to evade capture for an extended period, how will that affect the ability of the NTC to establish a viable government in Libya?