Libyan commandos fighting Muammar Qaddafi came close to capturing the toppled leader on Wednesday when they raided a private home in Tripoli where he appeared to have been hiding, Paris Match magazine reported on Thursday.
Citing a source in a unit that it said was coordinating among intelligence services from Arab states and Libyan rebels, the French weekly said on its website that these services believed Qaddafi was still somewhere in the Libyan capital.
Qaddafi was not in the unassuming safe house in central Tripoli when agents arrived about 10 a.m. (0800 GMT) on Wednesday after a tip-off from a credible source. But, the magazine said, they found evidence that he had spent at least one night there – though it did not say how recent that might have been.
NATO is contributing intelligence and reconnaissance equipment to the search for Qaddafi, Britain’s Defense Minister Liam Fox told Sky news on Thursday.
“I can confirm that NATO is providing intelligence and reconnaissance assets to the NTC (National Transitional Council) to help them track down Colonel Qaddafi and other remnants of the regime,” who fled before advancing rebel forces on Tuesday, he said.
The defense ministry said Mr. Fox was referring to “various assets such as military planes.”
A ministry spokesman would not say whether SAS special forces members had been deployed in the search, as reported by the Daily Telegraph.
The newspaper quoted defense ministry sources as saying SAS members were sent to Libya several weeks ago and played a key role in coordinating the battle for Tripoli.
Camouflaged in civilian clothes and armed with the same types of weapons used by the rebel forces, the commando members have been tasked primarily with finding Qaddafi, the paper said.
“We can't comment on special forces at the moment,” the ministry spokesman responded.
The rebels who overran the Libyan capital and captured Qaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound on Tuesday have offered a $1.7 million reward for the capture of the elusive strongman, dead or alive.