21 Feb 2011

Libya: has Gaddafi fled the country?

Foreign Secretary William Hague admits he has information that Colonel Gaddafi may have left Libya for Venezuela. Channel 4 News looks into the whereabouts of the Libyan leader.

Colonel Gaddafi may have fled to Venezuela (getty images)

The Foreign Secretary William Hague has admitted to reporters at the EU Foreign Ministers’ meeting: “You asked me earlier about whether Colonel Gaddafi is in Venezuela. I have no information that says he is, but I have seen some information that suggests he is on his way there at the moment.”

The Libyan leader has strong connections with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and considers the South American country as one of his strongest political allies.

The wherabouts of the Libyan leader are still unknown but United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon admitted that he had spoken to Colonel Gaddafi and insisted the violence “must stop immediately”.

The Libyan delegation at the UN denounced the actions across their country and called Sunday’s comments by Mr Gaddafi’s son Saif “a declaration of civil war”. Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN, told reporters that Colonel Gaddafi had commited crimes of genocide against his people.

“People’s aspirations for greater democracy, for greater freedom, for greater rights should be met with reform not repression.” David Cameron

Reports from a number of online sources claim that there have been air attacks on Tripoli by the air force, whilst mercenary soldiers are shooting at groups across the capital.

On a visit to Cairo, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron called the violent crackdown by the Gaddafi regime “completely appalling and unacceptable”.

“I call on them even at this late stage to stop,” he added. “People’s aspirations for greater democracy, for greater freedom, for greater rights should be met with reform not repression,”

Omar Amer, the UK head of the Libyan Youth Movement, told Channel 4 News that Banghazi was now under opposition control and events were now focussing on Tripoli.

“What is happening in Tripoli now is war crimes,” he added. “He is at war with his own people.”

Follow the developments as they happen on Channel 4 News Libya Live Blog

Fawaz Gerges, Professor of Middle Eastern Politics at the London School of Economics, told Channel 4 News that the Gaddafi regime was unravelling.

“The next 48 hours will prove to be life and death not just for Gaddafi, but the Gaddafi family,” he said. “The revolution is spreading throughout Libya and he is fighting his last stand in Libya.

“The ship is sinking and we will see whether he can salvage anything out of it in the next 48 hours or whether he will go down with the ship.”

Reports have spread that members of the UK Libyan embassy have defected whilst a number of members of the Libyan regime have also stood down. Eye witnesses told how the Libyan flag had been changed to the historic, pre-Gaddafi standard, though it is unclear whether it was raised by Embassy officials or a member of the protesting group that has grown outside.

Two Libyan fighter jets have grounded themselves at Malta’s International Airport as well as two seven-seater helicopters claiming to contain French nationals.