Turns out the seizure of Muammar Qaddafi's Tripoli compound isn't just turning up underground tunnels, Condoleezza Rice photo albums, and lots of loot. Mary Fitzgerald of the Irish Times reports today that she's discovered evidence suggesting that Qaddafi's adopted daughter Hana, whom Libyan state media claimed had been killed as an infant in the 1986 U.S. bombing of Qaddafi's compound, is still alive. Fitzgerald explains that ever since the airstrike, which took place in retaliation for a Libyan-sponsored bombing of a Berlin nightclub, Qaddafi has invoked Hana's death to portray himself as a "victim of western military aggression," even organizing a "Hana Festival of Freedom and Peace" to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the U.S. raid.
Yesterday, in Qaddafi's ransacked compound (pictured above), Fitzgerald entered a room that the rebels soon excitedly suggested was Hana's. She found a Sex and the City DVD box set, Backstreet Boys CDs, bookshelves filled with medical textbooks, and passport photos of a woman in a white medical coat who looked to be in her mid-20s. She also came across a medical exam paper signed "Hana Muammar Qaddafi" in Arabic and a certificate indicating that a Hana Muammar Qaddafi had received an A in an English language course. Fitzgerald appended photos of these and other discoveries to her article.
This is far from the first time that speculation has cropped up about Qaddafi's Hanna narrative. The Guardian notes that prior to the U.S. bombing in 1986, the Qaddafi regime had never mentioned Hana, "leading to speculation the story might have been concocted for propaganda reasons." Fitzgerald adds that when she was in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi earlier this year, she heard "constant claims that Hana had studied medicine and was working as a doctor in Tripoli." In 1999, Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, reported that Qaddafi's wife and "daughters Aisha and Hana" had had lunch with Nelson Mandela and ran a photo showing a young girl with Aisha and Mrs. Qaddafi.
The rumors heated up this year when the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag obtained a Swiss document that listed Qaddafi family members--including Hana (whose date of birth made her six months old at the time of the U.S. raid)--as part of an effort to freeze Qaddafi's assets following the eruption of the Libyan uprising. A Swiss government spokesperson cryptically told Welt am Sonntag, "There are reasons why the name is on the list, which we are not revealing publicly." Later, the German newspaper Die Welt reported that Hana was a powerful doctor working for Libya's health ministry and that "diplomatic circles in Tripoli have known about Hana's existence for several years."
Then, earlier this month, The Telegraph reported that documents found in the Libyan embassy in London revealed that in 2008, Libyan officials in London arranged for a dentist to fly to Tripoli to treat a patient named "Hana Qaddafi." Citing patient confidentiality, the dentist, Stephen Hopson, told the paper he was "neither admitting or denying" anything, adding, "It's possible perhaps there could be a second Hana Qaddafi. It's not beyond the realms of possibility." An unnamed Libyan government official went even further, informing The Telegraph that Qaddafi had adopted a second daughter named Hana after the first one was killed in the 1986 bombing.
In another bizarre twist to the mystery, The Daily Mail has pictures of what it says is Hana's former bedroom in Qaddafi's compound, which the paper claims the regime turned into a kind of "ghostly" shrine by encasing all the furniture in glass, which was later smashed by rebel fighters (the bedroom appears to be a separate room from the one Fitzgerald explored).
And as for Fitzgerald herself? She's pretty convinced that Hana is still alive. "It now seems almost certain that Hana Muammar Gadafy did not die in the 1986 bombing of the Gadafy compound, but her current whereabouts, like those of her adoptive father, mother and siblings, remain a mystery," she writes.