Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

In final weeks, Gadhafi between rage and despair | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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MISRATA, Libya (AP) — Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s all-powerful leader for four decades, spent his final weeks shuttling from hideout to hideout in his hometown of Sirte, alternating between rage and melancholy as his regime crumbled around him, said a Gaddafi confidant now in custody.

Gaddafi, his son Muatassim and an entourage of two dozen die-hard loyalists were largely cut off from the world while on the run, living in abandoned homes without TV, phones or electricity, said Mansour Dao, a member of the Gaddafi clan and former chief of Libya’s feared Revolutionary Guards.

Gaddafi would spend his time reading, jotting down notes or brewing tea on a coal stove, Dao said late Monday in a conference room of the revolutionary forces’ headquarters in the port city of Misrata, his temporary jail cell. “He was not leading the battle,” Dao said of Gaddafi. “His sons did that. He did not plan anything or think about any plan.”

The uprising against Gaddafi erupted in February and quickly escalated into a civil war that formally ended Sunday, with a declaration of liberation by Libya’s new leaders.

Gaddafi’s capture and death Thursday, along with the fall of Sirte, the last regime stronghold, paved the way for that milestone. On the day of Gaddafi’s capture, a convoy carrying loyalists, including the former Libyan leader and Dao riding in a green Toyota Landcruiser, had sped out of Sirte to try to escape. But the convoy was hit by a NATO airstrike.

Gaddafi and Dao were wounded and captured, and the ousted dictator died in unclear circumstances later that day. Libya’s interim government agreed under mounting international pressure to open an investigation.

Libyan officials claim Gaddafi was killed in crossfire. However, video footage has emerged showing Gaddafi being beaten, taunted and abused by his captors. Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch said Monday that there are strong indications that a fatal shot to Gaddafi’s head was fired after he was already in custody. He said a Libyan nurse in the convoy told the rights group that Gaddafi was only lightly injured when he was caught.

The bodies of Gaddafi, Muatassim and Abu Bakr Younis, Gaddafi’s defense minister, were put on public display in a commercial produce freezer in the port city of Misrata for four days, before being moved late Monday in preparation for burial. The local military spokesman said they were buried in a secret location early Tuesday morning.

Dao said Gaddafi fled his residential compound in Tripoli around Aug. 18 or 19, just before revolutionary forces swept into the city. After the capital’s fall, Dao said Gaddafi headed directly to Sirte, accompanied by Muatassim. Gaddafi’s former heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, sought refuge in Bani Walid, another loyalist stronghold.

Dao joined Gaddafi in Sirte a week later, while Libya’s former intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senoussi, shuttled between Sirte and the southern city of Sabha, the third remaining pro-Gaddafi bastion at the time. Al-Senoussi and Seif al-Islam, wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges, remain at large.

Gaddafi’s aides repeatedly urged him to step aside and leave the country, but he refused, saying he wanted to die in the land of his ancestors, according to Dao. “I feel sorry for him because he underestimated the situation,” Dao said of Gaddafi for him he had worked since 1980, including as chief of personal security in the 1990s.

“He could have left and gotten out of the country and lived a happy life,” Dao said.

In Sirte, Gaddafi and his entourage switched hideouts about every four days, as the city was pounded by NATO airstrikes and revolutionary forces advanced. The group stayed within the confines of the so-called No. 2 neighborhood, seeking shelter in homes residents had abandoned as they fled the fighting.

“We were scared of the airstrikes and shelling,” Dao said, adding that he did not believe Gaddafi was afraid.

Muatassim led the loyalist fighters in Sirte, initially commanding about 350, but many fled and toward the end the fighting force diminished to about 150.

Gaddafi, who once ruled a country of 6 million with an iron fist, railed against the loss of power. “He was stressed, he was really angry, he was mad sometimes,” Dao said. “Mostly, he was just sad and angry.”

“He believed the Libyan people still loved him, even after we told him that Tripoli had been occupied.”