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Libyan cell to hunt Gaddafi

world Updated: Sep 10, 2011 01:27 IST

AP
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Determined to hunt down Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's new rulers say they have dedicated a special unit of fighters to track the elusive former leader, listening in on his aides' phone calls, poring over satellite images and interviewing witnesses.

Although leads come mostly from on-the-ground tips, help is also coming from France and other Western countries, according to a French intelligence official. Satellite-based transmission intercepts of suspicious phone calls try to pinpoint where Gaddafi might be. Small CIA teams are also assisting in the manhunt, according to former US officials.

Gaddafi, who hasn't been seen in public for months, went underground after anti-regime fighters swept into Tripoli on August 21. Capturing the ousted ruler would allow the former rebels to seal their grip on the country and shut the door on the possibility of Gaddafi's inspiring an insurgency against the new leaders.

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After more than four decades under his authoritarian rule, Libyans are haunted by the question of Gaddafi's whereabouts, and the country has been awash with rumors that have put him everywhere from deep in a bunker under Tripoli to safe in exile in neighboring Niger or Algeria.

On Thursday, Gaddafi himself dismissed talk of his flight, saying in an audio broadcast that he's still in Libya, and exhorting followers to keep fighting.