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Rebels Move To Find Gadhafi, Secure Libya


In Libya, the rebel leadership would certainly like to bring Moammar Gadhafi to trial, but the problem has been finding him. The search for the fugitive leader goes on, even as rebel leaders seek to negotiate the peaceful surrender of the remaining towns that Gadhafi loyalists still hold.

Meanwhile, the rebel leader leadership, the Transitional National Council is scrambling to restore security and services in the capital Tripoli, and in the other cities, amid rumors of infighting and division within their ranks.

NPR's Corey Flintoff is in Tripoli. Good morning, Corey.

COREY FLINTOFF: Good morning, David. How are you?

GREENE: Very well. I gather some of Gadhafi's top supporters have turned up, but the rebels are still looking for the leader himself. What's the latest?

FLINTOFF: Well, there was a storm of speculation that was raised by stories that there was a big convoy of Libyan army and civilian vehicles that crossed into Libya's southern neighboring country, Niger, yesterday. And it was thought to include important pro-Gadhafi officials who may have been on their way to seek asylum in yet another country, Burkina Faso. So that raised images of convoys crossing the Sahara Desert, possibly loaded with money and gold and guarded by desperate men.

So there was speculation, as well, that Gadhafi and his son Saif al-Islam might be planning to join that convey at some point. But Niger has said that the convoy was small and that it didn't include any of the Gadhafi's. And Burkina Faso officials say that no loyalists groups have arrived in their country and that they're not expecting Gadhafi.

GREENE: Well, of course, outside observers, other countries are paying very close attention to this search, including the United States. What are U.S. officials saying about Gadhafi's possible whereabouts?

FLINTOFF: Well, a state department spokeswoman has said as far as the U.S knows, he's still in Libya. But the U.S. is urging Niger to detain any Gadhafi supporters who might be subject to prosecution for war crimes. And, of course, they're also urging that any assets, such as gold, money, or jewels, be seized.

GREENE: And even as the rebels seek to assert their leadership over the country, I know we still have these towns that are holding out loyal to Gadhafi. Where are they, what are these towns? Are they still firmly in the hands of loyalists?

FLINTOFF: Well, negotiations are still going on for the towns of Bani Walid and for Sirte, which is Gadhafi's hometown. Beni Walid is the immediate one. It's a big farming town south of Tripoli, and the rebels have been talking for days with leading citizens from the town, not the Gadhafi loyalists, but citizens and elders, and they've been trying to work out a deal for a peaceful surrender. But the rebels say that Gadhafi loyalists in the town are essentially holding those 60,000 or so people there hostage and refusing to allow them to surrender. The rebels say that's because the loyalists include people with blood on their hands who have nowhere to go if the town is taken.

So at this point there seems to be a stalemate and the extended deadline for reaching a deal is now Friday. That's also true now in Sirte, and it's expected that whatever happens in Beni Walid will affect the negotiations for Sirte.

GREENE: And Corey, you're in the capital of Tripoli. What is life like there? Are there signs that services are coming back? Is life feeling normal again?

FLINTOFF: Well, it's not feeling normal, but we are seeing signs that things are getting better. There are more shops open. Some restaurants are opening. Water is being restored, and we're starting to see, actually, traffic police returning to the streets. We're also hearing though, that there's friction among the leaders of the various rebel military groups that are controlling this city.

One source, who's close to the Supreme Security Committee, told us that they spend more time arguing among themselves than they do on security. We've also heard that rebel groups in some part of the city have been acting on their own, that they've been searching houses of suspected Gadhafi loyalists and seizing property and making arrests. But we talked to a number of people at the street level, yesterday, and the rebel security people that we spoke with say that coordination among them is improving and that they've been working together pretty well.

GREENE: We've been speaking to NPR's Corey Flintoff who is reporting from the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Thanks Corey.

FLINTOFF: Thank you, David.

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GREENE: You're listening to MONRNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Corey Flintoff is a correspondent with the Foreign Desk. His career has taken him to more than 45 countries.Since 2005, Flintoff has been part of the NPR team covering the Iraq War. He has embedded with U.S. military units fighting insurgents and hunting roadside bombs. His stories from Iraq have dealt with sectarian killings, government corruption, the Christian refugee crisis, and the destruction of Iraq's southern marshes.