Gadhafi Still Eludes Libyan Rebels Search

Rebel forces continue to battle pockets of resistance from pro-Gadhafi forces in the Libyan capital Tripoli. Meanwhile, a bounty has been placed on the head of the Libyan leader.

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DAVID GREENE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

In Libya, the hunt is on for Moammar Gadhafi. While rebels struggle to pacify the capital, Tripoli, a bounty of reportedly up to $2 million has been placed on the Libyan leader's head. The rebel Transitional National Council has also offered amnesty to anyone who captures or kills him. It's become the top priority now amid concerns that having Gadhafi at large could prolong the conflict in that country.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro joins us now from Tripoli to talk about this and more.

And what can you tell us, Lourdes, about how the rebels are going about looking for Gadhafi?

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, it seems that this is an all out effort. I can tell you that yesterday, there was a team that went into - a rebel team that went into one of the functioning hotels here where journalists are staying. And they went room-by-room looking, apparently, for Moammar Gadhafi's son, which just goes to show that they're not leaving any stone unturned.

That said, it is an international effort. We know at the moment that the United States has brought in surveillance equipment. The British press is also reporting that British Special Forces are on the ground looking for Moammar Gadhafi. And so what you get a sense of here is that there is a real urgency to finding the Libyan leader. No one really knows at the moment where Moammar Gadhafi is.

But what is clear is that as the rebels formalize their control over the capital and over the areas that they control, his hold is slipping.

MONTAGNE: So bring us up to date, then, as to what's happening there in the capital, in Tripoli.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We'll, this morning, so far it's been relatively quiet but there are still pockets of loyalists in this city. And the rebels are having to sort of battle them in several areas. We know that they reinforced their sort of fighters with other more hardened troops from places like Misrata. And so they really are trying to make sure that the city is as secure as possible, as quickly as possible.

The main trouble area is one neighborhood, Abu Salim, which is to the south, and is still in control nominally of loyalists. And then there is fierce fighting around Tripoli's airport, as well.

What we know at the moment is that people are still jumpy. They're still concerned about Gadhafi loyalists operating in this city. An international, sort of, security firm reported that Gadhafi had told his people that they should target foreigners, be they journalists or diplomats, in order to sort of create a sense of chaos and instability here in the capital and the country at large.

MONTAGNE: Well, just briefly, the journalists have become the story in recent days, because foreign journalists were trapped in that Rixos Hotel in Tripoli. Tell us how they were freed yesterday.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's an extraordinary story. I mean, I stayed in the Rixos, and it was sort of gilded cage, a prison. And yesterday, finally, after spending, you know, sort of weeks essentially trapped there, unable to depart because of the fighting, they were let go. We know that there was one producer from CNN, Jomana, who actually negotiated for the group and allowed them to leave. It seems that the gunmen that were holding them simply had no idea that the city had been, quote-unquote, "liberated by the rebels." And so they were simply carrying out their orders to keep the journalists inside.

And so, eventually, they were let go and they showed up at one of the hotels where journalists are staying here, and basically were just unbelievably relieved to be able to come out of this with their lives. There were scenes of crying and hugging as they saw other journalists whom they knew. But really, speaking to some of them as we did, still very shaky, filled with tension. They thought at many times that they were going to be killed.

MONTAGNE: All right. Well, thanks very much, Lourdes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: We've been talking to Lourdes Garcia-Navarro in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

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