Muammar Gaddafi taunted his Libyan enemies and their Western backers on Thursday as rebel forces battled pockets of loyalists across Tripoli in an ever more urgent quest to find and silence the fugitive strongman.
Rumors of Gaddafi or his sons being cornered, even sighted, swirled among excitable rebel fighters engaged in heavy machine-gun and rocket exchanges. But two days after his compound was overrun, hopes of a swift end to six months of war were still being frustrated by fierce rearguard actions.
Western powers demanded Gaddafi’s surrender and worked to release frozen Libyan state funds, hoping to ease hardships and start reconstruction in the oil-rich state. But with loyalists holding out in the capital, in Gaddafi’s coastal home city and deep in the inland desert, violence could go on for some time and test the ability of the government-in-waiting to keep order.
Though his enemies believe Gaddafi, 69, is still in the capital, they fear he could flee by long-prepared escape routes, using tunnels and bunkers, to rally an insurgency.
Gaddafi’s opponents fear that he may rally an insurgency, as did Saddam Hussein in Iraq, should he remain at large and, perhaps, in control of funds salted away for such a purpose.