Question: What kind of idiot government official thinks he can take refuge in a country after his government’s soldiers repeated cross into that country “chasing rebels”and attacking villages? Col. Qaddafi’s Prime Minister, Al Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi, that’s what kind of idiot.
The Tunisia government has announced that it has taken al-Mahmoudi into custody for “entering the country without having his passport stamped.” Tunisia allowed thousands of refugees, mostly foreign workers, to cross the border at the start of the rebellion. They didn’t have any identification and certainly didn’t get their passports stamped. Tunisia had difficulty dealing with the refugees because its own government wasn’t very stable. They had just come through their own rebellion and hadn’t held elections or created a new constitution or done much to get the basic bureaucracy running smoothly. Without proper papers, they had no way to repatriate the foreign workers. But, Tunisia coped as best it could in part because of empathy with the Libyan rebellion. Tunisia also gave sanctuary to a host of fairly high level defectees from the Qaddafi government and army, as well as the young woman who burst into the Rixos Hotel to tell Western journalists how she had been detained and raped by Qaddafi troops.
That empathy with the rebels and sanctuary for the defecting made the Libyan security forces, mercenaries and army a little testy when it came to the Tunisians. Using the flimsy excuse of chasing rebels, they crossed the border and attacked a couple of Tunisian villages inflicting mortar damage. Given all that history, al-Mahmoudi was dumb enough to think the Tunisians would grant him sanctuary from the National Transitional Council. He should have turned left at Ghadhames and headed into Algeria.
The NTC will request extradition of al-Mahmoudi so he can stand trial for crimes against the people of Libya. They have expressed no interest in extraditing the non-combatant members of Qaddafi’s family who fled to Algeria, and are in discussions with Niger concerning the hundreds of Qaddafi loyalists who have crossed into that country. Al-Mahmoudi is the only known Qaddafi loyalist to try escaping through Tunisia.
The NTC forces are continuing their mopping up operations, besieging those towns which have declared themselves still loyal to Qaddafi, most prominently Sirte, Sabha and Bani Walid. A handful of Western weapons disposal experts have been brought in to help find and destroy any chemical or biological weapons that Qaddafi may have stockpiled, while the NTC tries to secure all the weaponry that Qaddafi had accumulated over his forty years in power.
Qaddafi is still at large, but any suggestion that he is hiding out in one of the towns is probably wrong. There have been reports of a large convoy running around the Libyan desert, maybe even in circles because they haven’t made for any of the borders. That is more in keeping with Qaddafi’s character. He always presented himself as the Bedouin with the biggest tent….a humongously big tent with air conditioning and underground bunkers. It would appeal to his sense of drama and silent-movie-sheik fantasies, just the way his blonde private nurse and female bodyguards did, to wander the desert pitching his tent. It wouldn’t be surprising to discover he had painted rampaging Arabian horses on his vehicles.