A 'Paranoid' Qaddafi Reportedly Hiding in Hospitals to Duck Airstrikes

The U.K. and France are turning up the heat on Qaddafi with attack helicopters

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As NATO escalates its airstrikes in Tripoli, The Guardian and The Telegraph, citing unnamed British diplomatic and intelligence sources, are painting a picture today of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi as "increasingly paranoid" and "on the run." The sources say Qaddafi is hiding in places where he believes NATO won't bomb, moving from one hospital to another each night. The intelligence reports--which also claim Libyan commanders are having trouble communicating because they've abandoned their phones--motivated the French and the British to turn up the heat on Qaddafi by deploying Apache helicopters in Libya "with orders to gun down regime leaders," according to The Guardian (France's foreign minister, however, has insisted that the helicopters don't signify an intent to kill Qaddafi). The New York Times points out that the reports in the British press represent "the first acknowledgment by a senior Western official" that NATO planners has intelligence on Qaddafi's whereabouts.

Those whereabouts have been the subject of considerable speculation in recent weeks. When the Libyan leader appeared on state television earlier this month amidst rumors that he had been killed in a NATO airstrike, some analysts claimed the footage was pre-recorded while others suggested Qaddafi might actually be hiding behind foreign journalists in Tripoli's Rixos Hotel. Italy's foreign minister suggested that a wounded Qaddafi had fled Tripoli. The regime itself has denied these reports.

Other reports this morning indicate that military escalation may not be the only way to resolve the Libyan conflict. Libya has reached out to Russia--a critic of the NATO intervention--to negotiate a ceasefire, and Russia, in a change of tone, has stated that Qaddafi has lost his legitimacy and offered to work with the Libyan government to hasten his departure. And those airstrikes that have reportedly spooked the Libyan leader? An Australian cameraman caught one on tape last night from the roof of the Rixos Hotel:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.