25 Aug 2011

LIVE BLOG: The hunt for Gaddafi

All the latest from the Channel 4 News team in Libya, plus video, comment and analysis. Add your voice to the live blog.

LIVE BLOG: manhunt for Gaddafi (Getty)

Libya rebels target Gaddafi hometown of Sirte
• William Hague: ‘It’s not over yet’
• Gaddafi ‘safe and morale high’, says spokesman

Thursday 25 August

This live blog is now closed – scroll down to see events from Wednesday and Thursday or get the latest on Libya here.

19.45: William Hague tells Channel 4 News “huge progess has been made” and that Colonel Gaddafi is “delusion”. He said there could still be a period of bloodshed and “it’s not over yet”.

19:25 The US State Department said on Thursday that it believes Libya’s stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and mustard gas, built up by deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi, are secure.

18:00 Libyan rebel fighters have discovered huge stockpiles of food and medicine hoarded by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Tripoli that will ease the country’s shortages, the rebel council said. A rebel spokesman said there was enough food in Gaddafi’s Tripoli stash to feed a city twice its size – its population is 2m – and enough medicine for the entire country for a year.

17:55 Algeria claims it has evidence that Libyan militants it handed over to Gaddafi’s regime have now joined the rebels. The country also says it will not recognise rebels until they give a commitment to fight al-Qaeda (Reuters).

17:30 Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi‘s whereabouts remain unknown – but he remains defiant, issuing another audio broadcast calling for his supporters to march on Tripoli and “purify” the capital of rebels, who he denounced as “rats, crusaders and unbelievers”.

“Libya is for the Libyan people and not for the agents, not for imperialism, not for France, not for Sarkozy, not for Italy,” he said. “Tripoli is for you, not for those who rely on Nato.”

16:30 Earlier reports that Gaddafi could be in a Tripoli apartment are being labelled as “more hope than reality”.

Libya is for the Libyan people…Tripoli is for you, not for those who rely on Nato. Muammar Gaddafi

One group of rebels believed they had located Gaddafi and his sons in an apartment building – but there is still no indication that the Colonel is inside.

Battles continue across Tripoli as Gaddafi loyalists hold on across the Libyan capital. Meanwhile the head of the rebel government-in-waiting, Mahmoud Jibril, tells Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi: “We need urgent help.”

The rebels fear Gaddafi could rally an insurgency, particularly if they do not move quickly to set up the new Libya.

16:15 There are reports that rebels firing on an apartment building in Tripoli are shouting “Gaddafi, Gaddafi!”

The BBC is reporting that a spokesman for Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi said he is safe and his morale is high.

16:00: Rebel fighters in Libya claim they know the location of Colonel Gaddafi and have him surrounded. A gunfight is taking place around a group of central Tripoli apartment buildings.

15:45: As reports continue to circulate that rebels believe Gaddafi could be in an apartment building in Tripoli, the head of the rebel council urges others to “join the revolution”.

As rebels beseiging a building told Reuters that they believed Gaddafi was inside, Mustafa Abdel Jalil said in a Benghazi press conference: “I call on our people in the areas that have not been liberated … to join the revolution.

“We welcome any negotiations from any community or area, whether directly or indirectly, to avoid more killings,” Abdel Jalil said, in the press conference aired on Al Jazeera.

15:30 Channel 4 News Correspondent Alex Thomson is in the Abu Salim area, the last stronghold of Gaddafi loyalists in Tripoli.

He says: “They say it is the final push to take Tripoli.

“I’m standing next to the biggest group of fighters I have seen together in this war. We’re on the coastal ring road and a seven-tonne truck is being loaded with boxes of ammunition. In front of me the fighters are singing and chanting as they prepare for the battle of Abu Salim – the last district held by Colonel Gaddafi’s forces.”

Read more from Alex Thomson in Abu Salim 

15:20: Reuters is reporting a group of rebels besieging a cluster of apartment buildings near the compound of Muammar Gaddafi said they believed the man who led Libya for four decades was hiding in the buildings with some of his sons.

12:30: Italy says it will begin unfreezing assets belonging to the Gaddafi regime.

11:10: The Arab League has given its backing to the rebel NTC and invited it to take Libya’s seat at the League.

11:05: Four Italian journalists who were abducted near Zawiya in Libya on Wednesday have been freed according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

07:00: Colonel Gaddafi is most likely hiding in his hometown of Sirte or in Sabha according to rebel military spokesman.

LIVE BLOG: Battle for Tripoli rages in Libya

Wednesday 24 August

20:00: French President Nicolas Sarkozy says France will persevere with military operations in Libya for as long as they are needed by the rebel forces.

19.45: Libya’s new masters offered a million-dollar bounty for the fugitive Muammar Gaddafi.

19.30: Four Italian journalists have reportedly been taken hostage outside Tripoli. The group, who worked for Italian newspapers Corriere della Sera, La Stampa and Avvenire, are being held in an apartment in Tripoli, said Guido de Sanctis, the Italian consul in Benghazi, who was able to speak to one of the journalists by phone.

19.00: The second in command of Libya’s intelligence services declares his allegiance to rebel forces in an interview aired on Al Arabiya television.

Khalifah Mohammed Ali: “I put myself in the service of the nation and call on generals and soldiers who are the sons of Libya to join the 17th February revolution.”

18:05: Al Arabiya television is reporting that Libyan rebels fighting to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi have taken control of an army base west of Tripoli in Zuara. The military installation is called Mazraq al-Shams, Arabiya said.

17:45: The White House says there is no sign yet that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has let go of power, but repeated its view that he was on the way out.

“The developments that we’re seeing are an indication the Gaddafi regime’s 42-year grip on power in Libya is slipping,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

“There is still no evidence to indicate that he has left.”

Channel 4 News photo gallery of the storming of Tripoli

17:30: Foreign Secretary William Hague says it is a “great relief” that the journalists trapped in the Rixos hotel by pro-Gaddafi forces have been freed.

17:25: A global risk monitoring company rates Tripoli as the most dangerous city in the world.

AKE says it has raised the risk rating for the Libyan capital following days of fighting.

17:10: Despite scenes of euphoria in parts of Tripoli, with rebel fighters ripping down Gaddafi iconography, Libyans are realising that the battle for Tripoli is not yet over.

Although rebels breached Gaddafi’s compound yesterday, fighters loyal to the Libyan leader are continuing to resist.

There are some fights going on but hopefully today everything will be over. Rebel fighter

“There are some fights going on but hopefully today everything will be over,” one rebel fighter said.

For most of the population, security was still far too patchy for life to even start getting back to normal. Shops remained firmly shuttered and rubbish piled up uncollected in the streets.

The focus of fighting today has switched to the area around the Rixos hotel in Tripoli, where 35 foreign journalists were trapped before being escorted out by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Read more: Libya campaign 'initially a mess', says Whitehall source

Supplies are also running short at hospitals and most doctors had not returned to work, a rebel spokesman said.

“There is a real catastrophe here. All hospitals and other health centres in Tripoli are suffering from a lack of medical staff, medicine and medical equipment,” said the spokesman.

“Appeals were made yesterday in the streets and mosques for urgent help. There is also a dangerous shortage of blood at hospitals for the wounded.”

17:00: The United States is set to ask the United Nations Security Council to unfreeze $1.5bn in Libyan assets for humanitarian reasons.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says to see convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi put back in jail after Gaddafi is overthrown.

16:30: The United States believes Gaddafi is still in Libya – Pentagon.

Read more: Gaddafi could have underground escape tunnels

16:10: All Western journalists have been freed from Tripoli’s Hotel Rixos, where they were trapped by forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, according to reports from CNN.

Meanwhile, Gaddafi’s daughter has appeared on the loyalist TV channel Al-Orouba saying Libyans must unite against Nato, according to reports.

And the National Transitional Council has called back oil workers to restart Ras Lanuf and Brega oil facilities.

16:00: The Arab League will hold an urgent meeting to discuss “the current Arab situation including the developments in Libya and Syria”.

Smoke billows from the Bab al-Aziziya compound – formerly Gaddafi’s stronghold – in Tripoli.

Smoke billows from the Bab al-Aziziya compound - formerly Gaddafi's stronghold - in Tripoli (Reuters)

15:30 Channel 4 News Foreign Correspondent Jonathan Rugman looks at what could be next for Colonel Gaddafi – and Tripoli.

“Gaddafi may well be messianic and delusional enough to have stayed in his capital to fight to the bitter end. A better ending in his eyes perhaps, than being tried for crimes against humanity either by his own people or by the International Criminal Court.”

Gaddafi may well be messianic and delusional enough to have stayed in his capital. Jonathan Rugman

Read more from Jonathan Rugman in his blog: Where is Gaddafi?

15:15: Save The Children is warning of “grave danger” for children living in Tripoli. It is preparing to send a team to the city as soon as it is safe to do so.

Emma Mumford, the charity’s humanitarian advisor on Libya, said: “We are already hearing reports of children being killed and injured in the fighting.”

Read more: 'It's over for Gaddafi' his foreign minister tells Channel 4 News

15:10: Channel 4 News cameraman in Libya, Stuart Webb, blogs about the approach to Tripoli – the streets remain green, Gaddafi’s colour.

“We went to Green Square, now renamed Martyrs’ Square. But when we got into the square there was nothing there but thousands of bullet casings lying on the ground. The odd rebel fighter will come by in an armoured pick-up truck and fire a volley in celebration.

“At one end of the square there was an oily mess. This was intended to be the biggest ever picture of Gaddafi – his suppprters had built scaffolding in the square – intricate scaffolding – from which they were going to hoist a giant poster of Gaddafi with his face looking skyward; showing the Nato jets that he was still in charge. But the future of Libya is no longer green.”

Read more from Stuart Webb on how in Libya, you can have any colour you want, as long as it’s green.

15:00: The Libyan rebels say they are offering amnesty to any of Muammar Gaddafi’s entourage who capture or kill him.

Council chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil said a Benghazi businessman had offered two million Libyan dinars ($1.3m) for Gaddafi’s capture. But as the pressure intensifies on Gaddafi, he has not been abandoned by all his old allies.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez says he won’t recognise the new government in Libya.

14:20: “It’s over for Gaddafi’ – the colonel’s foreign minister has exclusively told Channel 4 News Foreign Correspondent Jonathan Miller.

Abdul Ati al-Obeidi, Gaddafi’s foreign minister, told Channel 4 News that Gaddafi had exhausted all options available to him.

His comments came after a rebel spokesman said that Gaddafi has lost control of 95 per cent of Libya. Colonel Abdallah Abu Afra told Al Jazeera: “Gaddafi’s regime is 95 percent finished, 95 percent of Libya is under rebel control.”

You can listen to the Channel 4 News interview below.

13:30: Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi are bombarding areas of central Tripoli including the Gaddafi compound seized by rebels a day before, a rebel spokesman says.

12:40: Channel 4 News Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson, in Tripoli, says the hospitals are struggling to cope with the numbers of wounded.

“At Tripoli’s main Al Zawiya Hospital, everything is overwhelmed by incoming casualties – not least the mortuary. I stopped counting after 37 bodies – all in civilian clothing – strewn about the corridors and room which were never meant for this purpose.

“Almost all the bodies I examined appeared to have died from gunshot wounds. Officials here have confirmed most were killed by snipers in the past two days. One said at least 400 people had been killed.”

Read more from Alex Thomson on the struggling hospital as the bodies keep coming
Libya rebels in Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli (Getty)

12:30: There is fighting just south of Tripoli, in an area where Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi could be hiding. According to reports, Libyan rebels believe that Gaddafi could be hiding somewhere in Tripoli.

12:20: Foreign Secretary William Hague tells a press conference that “we are witnessing the fall of Tripoli”.

We are witnessing the fall of Tripoli. Foreign Secretary William Hague

Hague also says Britain’s role in Libya will continue for some time.

“We’re witnessing the fall of Tripoli, but we don’t know how long it will take. We’ve witnessed scenes of jubilation… A clear fundamental decisive rejection of that regime by the Libyan people.

“Gaddafi should be telling his forces now to stand down. We don’t know where he is.”

12:15: Channel 4 News International Editor Lindsey Hilsum reports from inside Colonel Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli, where there is chaos - and joy. Rebels broke into the former stronghold of the Libyan leader yesterday, after fierce fighting.

"I've been down at Gaddafi's compound, Bab al-Aziziya, this morning. It's an amazing sight; dozens of fighters from Misrata there, some who only arrived in Tripoli this morning...

"There's a danger of different rebel groups firing at each other. It does feel that we are one step away from chaos, but at the moment, it is a joyful chaos which everyone hopes will not disintegrate."

Read more in Lindsey Hilsum's blog from inside Gaddafi's compound

12:00: Countries around the world are shifting their position on Libya to throw their weight behind the rebels, away from the official leader Colonel Gaddafi.

China calls for a “stable transition of power” in Libya, saying it is in contact with the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC). Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev is also calling for an end to the fighting and for both sides to sit down for talks.

Libyan rebel leader Mahmoud Jibril will meet French President Sarkozy in Paris later today to discuss the transition process of the post-Gaddafi era.

11:00 Channel 4 News International Editor Lindsey Hilsum is in Tripoli.

She says: “Just met a man who studied in Northampton in Bab al-Aziziya compound. Brother killed yesterday, but says it was worth the sacrifice.”

You can follow Lindsey Hilsum on Twitter @lindseyhilsum.

10:00 Colonel Gaddafi has vowed to fight on to “death or victory” in audio remarks broadcast on a loyal TV station.

It remains unclear where the broadcast was recorded, as the Libyan leaders whereabouts are unknown after rebels breached his compound in Tripoli yesterday but did not find him.