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As Gadhafi Continues to Hide, Rebels’ Hunt Shifts Toward Sirte

August 29, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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GWEN IFILL: In Libya today, rebels continue their dogged pursuit of the man who ran the country for 42 years.

Margaret Warner has that story.

MARGARET WARNER: The race to find Moammar Gadhafi has shifted east from rebel-conquered Tripoli to the Libyan leader’s coastal hometown of Sirte.

MAN: We are looking for Gadhafi in the sky, in earth, in the street. Anyway, the game is over.

MARGARET WARNER: There were no reliable reports of Gadhafi’s actual whereabouts, though it was confirmed that his wife, daughter and two of his sons fled to neighboring Algeria today.

And there were unconfirmed reports that another son, Khamis, had been killed. Gadhafi loyalists in Sirte pledged to resist the rebels converging from the west and east. But the military chief of the Transitional National Council, the opposition’s loose-knit governing body, said they were still hoping to avoid a fight.

SULEIMAN MAHMOUD AL-OBEIDI, Transitional National Council (through translator): There are negotiations going on at the moment amongst leaders, between the people of Sirte and ourselves.

MARGARET WARNER: The council’s justice minister said, if Gadhafi were taken alive, the Libyan legal system, not the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court, would govern his fate.

MOHAMMED AL-ALAGI, Transitional National Council (through translator): If Gadhafi were to be caught, our national justice will be the original one to be reinforced, and the international justice is the secondary one.

MARGARET WARNER: The rebels also declared they will not extradite the Libyan convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Scottish authorities freed Abdel Basset al-Megrahi in 2009, thinking he was terminally ill. But his brother said today he’s still alive and in a coma.

For now, the rebel alliance faced the more immediate challenge of getting the capital, Tripoli, functioning again after last week’s fierce fighting and months of NATO bombardment. Severe water shortages and power outages have affected swathes of the city of one million.

That’s just one of the items slated for discussion at an international conference in Paris on Thursday.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend. And her spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, outlined the agenda in Washington.

VICTORIA NULAND, State Department spokeswoman: The international community is going to be looking forward to a report from the TNC in Paris on its needs in the areas of governance, security, humanitarian, economic reconstruction, and talking about how we can all play our part to support those efforts, including through the U.N. structures.