Libya's triumphant rebels say they have the country's ousted leader, Moammar Gadhafi, trapped in an area with a 40-mile radius, but won't disclose further details. The announcement came after a convoy of Gadhafi loyalists, including his security chief, fled across the Sahara into Niger, fueling speculation that Gadhafi had left the country, or planned to do so soon. With opposition fighters in control of all but a few loyalist pockets of the North African nation, where could Gadhafi still be hiding? Here, five possibilities:
1. Sirte, Libya
Some Western sources speculate that Gadhafi plans to keep running what's left of his loyalist forces from his hometown near Sirte, on Libya's coast, says Sangeeta Mukherjee in the International Business Times. "Sirte is home of Gadhafi's own tribe," and a nearby air base makes this one of the safest remaining spots in Libya for him to hide.
2. Bani Walid, Libya
Thousands of rebel fighters have converged around the oasis town of Bani Walid, to the west of Sirte and southeast of the capital, Tripoli. Two of Gadhafi's sons — Saadi and Saif al Islam — are believed to be holed up in the town, and some reports have placed Gadhafi himself there, too.
3. Sabha, Libya
Gadhafi's tribal heartland is contained within the triangle formed by Sirte, Bani Walid, and the desert town of Sabha to the south. The town's inhabitants, members of Gadhafi's Qadhadfa tribe, have remained loyal throughout the war with the rebels, and could still be providing the despot shelter.
4. Ghwat, Libya
Hisham Buhagiar, who is coordinating efforts to find Gadhafi, says the former leader probably isn't hiding — he's on the run. Buhagiar believes Gadhafi did hole up in Bani Walid after rebels overran Tripoli two weeks ago, but then fled across the desert into the area around the southern village of Ghwat, 190 miles north of the border with Niger. "People saw the cars going in that direction," Buhagiar says, as quoted by Reuters. "We have it from many sources that he's trying to go further south, towards Chad or Niger."
Gadhafi, along with two of his sons, were rumored to have been part of the convoy of some 200 Libyan Army vehicles that crossed into Niger this week, says David Kenner at Foreign Policy. Loyalist spokesmen deny it, as do officials in Niger. This theory posits that Gadhafi is trying to get through Niger to neighboring Burkina Faso, which offered him exile two weeks ago. But that escape route has recently become more tricky since Burkino Faso now recognizes Libya's new government.
Sources: CBS, Foreign Policy, International Business Times, Reuters, Slate, Washington Post