Italy: Gadhafi likely fled Tripoli, not Libya

Moammar Gadhafi may have fled Tripoli and a top Catholic official in that city reports that the Libyan strongman has been hurt, the Italian foreign minister said Friday.

Franco Frattini quoted Tripoli's bishop as saying Gadhafi is "probably wounded."

"There are a lot of very different hypotheses out there," including that offered by Archbishop Giovanni Martinelli, Frattini told Sky TG 24 TV on the sidelines of a conference in Tuscany. "I don't know if that is so. I said it seemed to me to be a credible hypothesis.

"Certainly, it's impossible to have confirmation," he said.

A brief recording of Gadhafi's voice was played on Libyan state TV later Friday, with the leader claiming he is alive after NATO attacks and "in a place where you can't get me." It wasn't clear where or when the audio recording was made.

The Libya-born Italian archbishop, who is based in Tripoli, could not immediately be reached for elaboration on his reported remarks. He has been a vocal critic of the NATO bombing campaign against the Gadhafi regime's forces.

LaPresse, an Italian news agency, said Frattini was pressed to predict what might be the outcome of looming action by the International Criminal Court against top members of the Gadhafi regime.

"Will Gadhafi end up killed like Osama (bin Laden)?" the minister said, when asked about whether he might be the target of a violent capture. "It's difficult to speculate on how this affair will end."

Gadhafi is expected to be among three Libyan officials targeted by arrest warrants to be issued Monday by the International Criminal Court.

Frattini also ventured that "international pressure has likely provoked the decision by Gadhafi to seek refuge in a safe place." That comment came during a TV interview with Corriere della Sera that was posted on the newspaper's website.

"I lean toward the solution of an escape from Tripoli, not an escape from Libya," Frattini said. "Libya is a big country, with desert areas."

Gadhafi's compound has been a frequent site of NATO-led airstrikes, including an attack on April 30 where he is believed to have been inside but have escaped unharmed. Seeking to quell speculation he might have been killed, Libyan state TV this week showed Gadhafi meeting tribal leaders, apparently in a Tripoli hotel on Wednesday.

Frattini said he had "many doubts that that footage had been made that day and especially in Tripoli."