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Members of Kadafi family flee to Algeria

The deposed Libyan leader's wife, daughter and two of his sons have taken refuge in the neighboring country, the Algerian government confirms.

August 30, 2011|By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times
  • A rebel fighter jumps from a tank in Misurata. Rebels said they had seized about 150 tanks from a military base near the city and planned to use them as part of a possible operation to take control of Surt, Moammar Kadafi's hometown.
A rebel fighter jumps from a tank in Misurata. Rebels said they had seized… (Goran Tomasevic, Reuters )

Reporting from Tripoli, Libya — Members of Moammar Kadafi's family, including his wife, daughter and two of his sons, have fled to Algeria, the government of the neighboring country said Monday.

Algerian state television reported that Kadafi relatives who arrived Monday through a border crossing included the deposed Libyan leader's wife, Safiya, his daughter, Aisha, and two of his sons, Hannibal and Mohammed. The group also included an undisclosed number of Kadafi's grandchildren, Algeria said.

The Algerian government said it had informed both the United Nations and the Libyan rebels' Transitional National Council that the group had arrived.

Photos: The Libyan conflict

But there was no answer to a much bigger question: Where was Moammar Kadafi himself?

Rebels have ended Kadafi's 42 years in power, occupying his Bab Azizia compound in Tripoli and consolidating control over the capital. But they are keen to capture Kadafi and put him on trial for crimes committed during his rule.

Since rebels entered the capital a week ago, Kadafi has been heard several times in audio broadcasts on loyal media outlets, urging followers and loyal tribes to fight the rebels. A spokesman who has contacted international news media insists that Kadafi is still in Libya.

Rumors have swirled about his exact whereabouts. Some had suggested that Kadafi, too, was in Algeria — a country rebels have accused of assisting him by providing mercenaries. Other unconfirmed reports suggest he has fled to the vicinity of his hometown, Surt, about 225 miles east of Tripoli. Kadafi retains substantial support in Surt, where he liberally bestowed the state's largesse.

Rebels are converging from both east and west on the coastal city of more than 100,000, readying for what could be the bloodiest battle of Libya's 6-month-old civil war.

Rebels say they are hoping to negotiate a surrender of Surt to avert more bloodshed but say they will take it by force if necessary.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, whose air campaign has provided the rebels with crucial firepower, has stepped up attacks in Surt in recent days.

Kadafi's son Mohammed was reported to have been captured by the rebels as they entered Tripoli last week but then escaped. Hannibal is best known for his scrapes with the law in Europe.

The whereabouts of several of Kadafi's higher-profile sons also remained unknown. They include Khamis and Mutassim, both military commanders, and Seif Islam, once a presumed successor who sought to modernize Libya but ultimately endorsed a hard line against protesters. Some unconfirmed reports suggest that Khamis was killed a few days ago as rebels stormed one of his brigade's bases south of Tripoli.

There has also been no word on the whereabouts of Saadi Kadafi, a former professional soccer player turned entrepreneur. Kadafi's government said another son, Seif Arab, 29, was killed April 30 in a NATO bombing attack on Tripoli that also killed three of Kadafi's grandchildren.

Kadafi, Seif Islam and Kadafi's intelligence chief are wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity allegedly committed as they tried to stamp out protests that erupted in February.

Meanwhile, rebel authorities were scrambling to restore basic services to Tripoli, which has largely been without running water and electricity for days.

A semblance of normality seemed to be returning Monday, as violence ebbed and shoppers hit the stores to prepare for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Several traffic jams even blocked downtown streets Monday afternoon, a novelty in a city where gas stations are closed and motorists are paying as much as $20 a gallon for black-market fuel.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch released a report alleging that a military brigade under the leadership of Khamis Kadafi executed dozens of detainees in a warehouse south of Tripoli this month as rebels battled for control of the city.

In Washington, State Department officials said Libyan rebels have promised to reconsider their refusal to extradite a former Libyan intelligence officer who was convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people.

In recent days, senior officials from the Transitional National Council had told Western authorities they would not hand over Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi. Sentenced to life in prison by a Scottish court in 2001, he was returned to Libya in 2009 because he suffered from prostate cancer and was not expected to live much longer. Megrahi's health appeared to improve significantly after he arrived in Tripoli, though his family insists that he is now seriously ill.

Photos: The Libyan conflict

patrick.mcdonnell@latimes.com

Times staff writer Paul Richter in Washington contributed to this report.

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