What will the unravelling of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year rule expose? Bunkers, tunnels, espionage and probably more.
The Rixos Hotel in Tripoli has been home for a steady flow of international journalists since the Libyan conflict began.
Over the months it has become almost as infamous as Saigon’s Caravelle, Sarajevo’s Holiday Inn and Baghdad’s Al Rashed.
Until two days ago, the only way to cover the Libyan conflict from Tripoli was to apply for a visa from Col Gaddafi’s government, hope it is granted and then succumb to a virtual house arrest at the Rixos.
Without the visa, it was impossible to get to Tripoli. With the visa, you’ll get there, but be unable to report anything without being monitored and ‘guided’ by government minders.
Most international news organisations took the decision that it was worth having a presence in Tripoli but to supplement it with another presence in the rebel held territories.
I spent five weeks in the Rixos. It was hard work. We were only allowed out with minders. Some of them were very friendly, but all monitored everything we did.
We could only go where they wanted to take us. We repeatedly asked to be taken to places that interested us. Answer: no.
At times it was intimidating. Many of the minders were genuine and passionate in their support for the Colonel. They never saw us as impartial. They were convinced we were spies.
We were convinced of a number of things too. We knew our emails and phones were being tapped, but we couldn’t prove it.
And we believed there was a series of bunkers under or near the hotel – a series of oddly placed air vents in the grounds and plenty of raised grass was enough to get the more imaginative minds going.
There is even a suggestion that a tunnel leads from the hotel north-east for a kilometre, popping up inside Col Gaddafi’s compound.
Well we now know – our emails were monitored. The three dozen journalists now stuck in the Rixos (the minders have fled) have discovered our emails printed out and labelled in handwriting.
The tunnels? We will find out I guess – but it will be fascinating to know how the Colonel managed to get to the Rixos (and away again) back in May without any of us knowing. We were oblivious and having dinner 30 yards from him.
The pressing question is where is he now? If he is still in Tripoli – and there’s no reason to suggest that he has left – then he is almost certainly in one of the many bunkers which are believed to lie beneath his sprawling compound.
Nato has spent months bombing the compound. Sources there have told me repeatedly that they know the leader has bunkers underneath the compound.
The bunkers were built by western companies (when the Colonel was on better terms with us) and it’s thought Nato has access to at least some of the blueprints for those bunkers.
Soon we may see the bunkers and the rest of it for ourselves.
Source: Sky News