Col. Moammar Gadhafi is in Zimbabwe, having fled Libya on a jet provided by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, it was claimed Saturday.
Mugabe has been a close supporter of Gadhafi, both men having long feared an allied Western effort to force them out of power.
With the full rebel takeover of Tripoli complete, Gadhafi's whereabouts have remained a mystery. Rebels said earlier this week they believed they had surrounded Gadhafi and some of his sons in the Libyan capital, but that failed to pan out.
Now, British papers are reporting that Zimbabwe's opposition party said Gadhafi arrived in the country early Wednesday morning and is staying at a mansion in a suburb of the nation's capital as Mugabe's guest.
According to the Sun:
Gadhafi's famed blonde female bodyguards had been seen patrolling the mansion's grounds.
And nearby roads were sealed off by Zimbabwean troops and plain-clothes police officers, it was claimed.
A spokesman for the opposition MDC Veterans party added: "There's now no doubt that Gadhafi is here as a 'unique guest' of Mugabe."
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported Saturday on the concern that Gadhafi could "pull a Saddam" the longer he eludes rebel capture:
If the rebels fail to find Gadhafi quickly as they battle to take his hometown of Sirte, they could face more than just a protracted manhunt. His continued evasion could fuel a Gadhafi-led counterinsurgency that bolsters his mythic status and stymies attempts by the rebels' fledgling government to bring stability and basic services to the country.
Like Saddam, Gadhafi is thought to have access to millions of dollars stashed away over the years. He has loyalists who benefited from his long rule and who, like the Iraqi leader's Baathist followers, believe they have nothing to gain and everything to fear from a new Libyan government.
"What we've learned is that finding one individual particularly in a tribal area is tough, despite all of technology we have, with our ability to collect intelligence sources together," said retired Lt. Col. John Nagl, who served in Iraq's al-Anbar province in 2003.
The former Iraqi dictator was ultimately found in a "spider hole" underneath a dug-out building in Dec. 2003. The area he was hiding had been scoured by up to 4,000 American troops.
By contrast, Gadhafi is being chased by a far smaller, far less equipped rebel force that has an area several times larger than Iraq to cover. And like Saddam, Gadhafi is well-armed, well-funded and capable of winning popular support and inspiring instability just by evading his pursuers.
Fewer than 100 foreign intelligence and special operations officers are in Libya now attempting to help the rebels.
"The good news is Libya has a long coast line and the population is clustered close to the shore," said Nagl, who now heads the Washington-based Center for a New American Security. "The bad news is we have few, if any, Americans on the ground, and this is a society we don't understand very well."