Fearful Gaddafi 'hides in hospital'
Published 27/05/2011 | 11:13
Britain is to step up the campaign against Muammar Gaddafi by sending in attack helicopters amid claims that the Libyan dictator is increasingly paranoid and "on the run".
MI6 has told David Cameron it has discovered that Gaddafi's behaviour is becoming even more erratic as Nato strikes take their toll.
He is said to be moving between hospitals in the Tripoli area nightly in an apparent bid to evade missiles - such as the ones which killed his youngest son last month.
Gaddafi has now not been seen in public since May 11, and his commanders have apparently stopped using telephones for fear of being overheard.
An inability to communicate is hampering their ability to fight, according to a senior UK diplomatic source, and there is also evidence of further defections from the military.
"There is a picture building up of a man who is paranoid and a regime that is feeling the pressure and beginning to fracture," the source said. "He is on the run."
The intelligence is understood to have persuaded the Prime Minister that the time is right to "turn the screw".
Mr Cameron, Defence Secretary Liam Fox and military chiefs have agreed to put four Apache attack helicopters at the disposal of the Nato operation, alongside existing warplane deployments.
The deadly aircraft can carry out strikes at closer quarters, reducing the potential for collateral damage and allowing a wider range of targets to be taken on. They are expected to be used against Gaddafi's troops in built-up areas of Misrata.
The Apaches could begin operating from HMS Ocean, which is in the Mediterranean, almost immediately.
Earlier, Mr Cameron and French president Nicolas Sarkozy discussed the situation at the G8 summit in France, with both leaders agreeing that the pressure on Gaddafi must be increased.
Mr Sarkozy has already authorised the use of 12 French attack helicopters, flying from the amphibious assault ship Le Tonnerre.
Meanwhile, RAF jets have attacked a military vehicle depot in the Libyan desert.
The Chief of Defence Staff's spokesman, Major General John Lorimer, disclosed the strike as he gave details of recent operations.
"A major target for the Royal Air Force contingent was the large military vehicle depot at Tiji in the west of Libya, which has been supporting regime attacks on the civilian population in the Djebel Nafousa region, south west of Tripoli," he said.
"Tornado and Typhoon aircraft, accompanied by other Nato aircraft, used Paveway guided bombs to attack multiple targets within the depot, causing very extensive damage."
As the conflict continued, at least five explosions were heard in Tripoli from Nato air strikes yesterday.
The targets were not not immediately identified, but smoke was seen rising from the area of Gaddafi's compound.
Meanwhile, Libya's government has pushed for a ceasefire, saying for the first time it is prepared to talk to the rebels.
But officials insisted Gaddafi would not relinquish power.
Prime minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi told reporters he was willing to hold talks with "all Libyans", including members of the rebel administration based in the eastern city of Benghazi.
But he said Gaddafi "is in the heart of every Libyan".
"If he leaves, the entire Libyan people leave," he added.