Italy: Gadhafi likely fled Tripoli, not Libya

May 13, 2011 - 11:44 AM

ROME (AP) — Moammar Gadhafi may have fled Tripoli and at least one Catholic official in Tripoli reports that the Libyan strongman has been hurt, the Italian foreign minister said Friday.

Franco Frattini said that Tripoli's bishop has said Gadhafi is "probably wounded." Frattini stressed that Italy has "no hard information on the current fate of Gadhafi."

Still, "I tend to take as credible the words of the Tripoli Archbishop (Giovanni) Martinelli who tells us that Gadhafi is very probably outside of Tripoli and probably also wounded," the ANSA news agency quoted Frattini as telling reporters on the sidelines of a conference.

Frattini said "international pressure has likely provoked the decision by Gadhafi to seek refuge in a safe place." That comment came during a TV interview with Corriere della Sera that was posted on the newspaper's website.

"I lean toward the solution of an escape from Tripoli, not an escape from Libya," Frattini said. "Libya is a big country, with desert areas."

Martinelli has been a vocal critic of the NATO bombing campaign against the Gadhadi regime's forces.

Gadhafi is expected to be among three Libyan officials targeted by arrest warrants to be issued Monday by the International Criminal Court.

Gadhafi's compound has been a frequent site of NATO-led airstrikes, including an attack on April 30 where he is believed to have been inside but have escaped unharmed. Seeking to quell speculation he might have been killed, Libyan state TV this week showed Gadhafi meeting tribal leaders, apparently in a Tripoli hotel on Wednesday.

Frattini said he had "many doubts that that footage had been made that day and especially in Tripoli."