From the shaky, grainy video, we have an idea of what the last moments were like for Col. Moammar Gadhafi. But over the past few days, his top security official, who was captured along with Gadhafi, has been talking about the final weeks of one of the most notorious despots in modern history.
As Mansour Dao, who says he is also Gadhafi’s cousin, puts it, Gadhafi left Tripoli on Aug. 18 or 19, before the rebels made a push for the capital city. He left to Sirte, what was a stronghold, and his son Saif al-Islam left for Bani Wald.
According to interviews Dao gave to the AP, The New York Times and one broadcast on Arab TV and translated by Britain’s Channel 4, Gadhafi spent his final weeks shuttling from one house to another in effort to avoid NATO air strikes. He lived in homes abandoned by Libyans and much of the time, he was without electricity or running water.
Here’s The New York Times:
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. “He would say: ‘Why is there no electricity? Why is there no water?’ “
Mr. Dhao, who stayed close to Colonel Qaddafi throughout the siege, said that he and other aides repeatedly counseled the colonel to leave power or the country, but that the colonel and one of his sons, Muatassim, would not even consider the option.
Channel 4 reports that Dao appeared on Arab television with a black eye. He said Gadhafi did not want to run away and was no longer in control of his loyalists. Instead his son, Mutassim, who was also killed last week, was directing the army. Dao said Gadhafi had a force of about 350 when he arrived in Sirte but that dwindled to about 150 in the end.
Dao told the AP that Gadhafi spent his final days making tea and writing:
He said food was scarce in Sirte in the final days. Dao has previously said that audio messages Qaddafi sent from hiding were transmitted by Thuraya satellite phone.
Qaddafi, who once ruled a country of 6 million with an iron fist, railed against the loss of power. “He was stressed, he was really angry, he was mad sometimes,” Dao said. “Mostly, he was just sad and angry.”
“He believed the Libyan people still loved him, even after we told him that Tripoli had been occupied.”
The Times reports that on his last day, when Gadhafi felt surrounded by the former rebels, he decided to leave Sirte:
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.”
Channel 4 reports that Dao did not mention a NATO strike in his Arab TV interview. Dao did mention the strike in his interview with the AP.
(Note: Dao’s name is spelled differently by various news organizations. We use AP style and also follow that for the spelling of Gadhafi, as well as the city of Sirte.)