Reporting from Tripoli, Libya — A woman who was beaten and carted away by plainclothes security officials after she told journalists she had been brutally gang-raped by Moammar Kadafi's militiamen remained missing Sunday even as she became a worldwide symbol of defiance against the regime.
A government official said Iman Obeidi was safe, free and with her family but provided no proof to back up his statement. The Libyan official, Musa Ibrahim, described the woman as a single mother and alleged she was a prostitute with a long criminal record. He said her accusation of rape was being investigated by law enforcement officials. One of the four accused is the son of a high-ranking security official, he said.
"This is her line of work," Ibrahim said. "She knows the boys for years. She goes out with them for business. She has a whole file of petty theft and prostitution."
But people claiming to be relatives of the woman, in her late 20s or early 30s and a member of a large eastern tribe, described her to Western journalists variously as a lawyer, law student and a travel agent with blood ties to opposition figures. None of their claims could be verified.