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Gadhafi May Be Hiding Near Algerian Border

Libya's Moammar Gadhafi (file photo)

Libya's Moammar Gadhafi (file photo)

According to provisional authority officials in Libya, the military believes former leader Moammar Gadhafi could be hiding in the western town of Ghadamis near the Algerian border.

The officials said Wednesday they also believe Gadhafi is under the protection of ethnic Tuaregs. The former leader once supported a Tuareg rebellion in northern Niger, and hundreds of former Tuareg rebels have fought for him.

National Transitional Council officials had previously suggested that Gadhafi was hiding in the town of Bani Walid, southeast of the capital, Tripoli, while other reports said he may be hiding in the south. He has not been seen since anti-Gadhafi forces seized Tripoli last month.

Fighting in Sirte

Intense fighting in the besieged Libyan city of Sirte has kept provisional government fighters from advancing in one of the few remaining strongholds of Gadhafi's supporters.

NTC forces say they have captured the city's port, but Gadhafi loyalists still control most of Sirte.

NATO said Tuesday about 200,000 civilians, mainly in Sirte and Bani Walid, are still threatened by pro-Gadhafi forces.

Earlier Tuesday, NTC fighters and elders from Gadhafi's tribe were trying to negotiate a truce that would allow safe passage for families trying to leave Sirte.

Weapons stockpiles

Meanwhile, a White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States is working with the NTC to help secure weapons stockpiles in Libya. Carney said a State Department official is in Libya working with provisional leaders to develop a program for controlling and destroying shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. He also said the U.S. is working with NATO to provide the NTC with all known locations of weapons.

Also Tuesday, Tunisian appeals court has overturned an illegal entry conviction against former Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi.

Judicial officials dismissed the charges against the Gadhafi-era minister.

Last week, a Tunisian court sentenced Mahmudi to six months in prison on the illegal entry charges. Tunisian officials said Tuesday that they had not received an extradition request from Libya.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.