Details of Gaddafi’s capture: “He was very afraid of NATO”

Anti-Gaddafi fighters stand in front of damaged cars after an attack by NATO on Gaddafi

From Kareem Fahim, the New York Times:  After 42 years of absolute power in Libya, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi spent his last days hovering between defiance and delusion , surviving on rice and pasta his guards scrounged from the emptied civilian houses he moved between every few days, according to a senior security official captured with him.  Under siege by the former rebels for weeks, Colonel Qaddafi grew impatient with life on the run in the city of Surt, said the official, Mansour Dhao Ibrahim, the leader of the feared People’s Guard, a network of loyalists, volunteers and informants. . . .

Colonel Qaddafi fled to Surt on Aug. 21, the day Tripoli fell, in a small convoy that traveled through the loyalist bastions of Tarhuna and Bani Walid. “He was very afraid of NATO,” said Mr. Dhao, who joined him about a week later.

The decision to stay in Surt was Muatassim’s; the colonel’s son reasoned that the city, long known as an important pro-Qaddafi stronghold and under frequent bombardment by NATO airstrikes, was the last place anyone would look.

The colonel traveled with about 10 people, including close aides and guards. Muatassim, who commanded the loyalist forces, traveled separately from his father, fearing that his own satellite phone was being tracked. . . .

About two weeks ago, as the former rebels stormed the city center, the colonel and his sons were trapped shuttling between two houses in a residential area called District No. 2. They were surrounded by hundreds of former rebels, firing at the area with heavy machine guns, rockets and mortars. “The only decision was whether to live or to die,” Mr. Dhao said. Colonel Qaddafi decided it was time to leave, and planned to flee to one of his houses nearby, where he had been born.

On Thursday, a convoy of more than 40 cars was supposed to leave at about around 3 a.m., but disorganization by the loyalist volunteers delayed the departure until 8 a.m. In a Toyota Land Cruiser, Colonel Qaddafi traveled with his chief of security, a relative, the driver and Mr. Dhao. The colonel did not say much during the drive.

NATO warplanes and former rebel fighters found them half an hour after they left. When a missile struck near the car, the airbags deployed, said Mr. Dhao, who was hit by shrapnel in the strike. He said he tried to escape with Colonel Qaddafi and other men, walking first to a farm, then to the main road, toward some drainage pipes. “The shelling was constant,” Mr. Dhao said, adding that he was struck by shrapnel again and fell unconscious. When he woke up, he was in the hospital.

“I’m sorry for all that happened to Libya,” he said, “from the beginning to the end.”  (photo: Reuters)

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