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Gaddafi 'hiding in Libyan desert'

Forces opposing Muammar Gaddafi believe he is hiding in Libya's southern desert, possibly in a vast area near the Algerian border.

A revolutionary command spokesman said the fugitive leader is under the protection of the ethnic Tuareg group.

He said: "We do believe that he is somewhere in that region and we do know that Tuaregs are supporting him, probably because he's paying them."

One report suggested Gaddafi was south-west of Sabha or in the Ghadamis area. Pro-Gaddafi forces recently staged an attack in the town of Ghadamis.

Revolutionary forces have control over much of Libya but Gaddafi's whereabouts remain unknown. His supporters are still fighting on three fronts.

Military officials fear Gaddafi may still be able to inspire violence from his hiding place.

The southern desert's Tuareg community spans the borders of Niger, Mali, Libya, Algeria and Chad.

"It's a very large bit of land to cover. We don't have the people to cover it all and he could move around quite freely," he said.

Pro-Gaddafi gunmen crossed the border from Algeria to attack revolutionary forces in Ghadamis last week, killing at least nine people.

Many Libyans believe Gaddafi's son and other regime members are hiding in Bani Walid, 90 miles south-east of Tripoli, where revolutionary fighters have been stalemated with loyalist fighters for weeks.

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