September 17th, 2011
08:26 PM ET

Gadhafi's "mystery" daughter

By Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty on assignment in Tripoli, Libya

Where is Hanna Gadhafi, adopted daughter of Col. Moammar Gadhafi?

Did she really die 25 years ago? Or did a "second" adopted Hanna grow up to become a doctor? Could she, right now, be hiding out with her father as his regime crumbles around him?

The Libyan capital is filled with rumors. "They said she might be alive, or he sent her abroad," a young woman in Tripoli tells us, "or maybe she's here."

If that sounds confusing - it is.

The mystery of Hanna Gadhafi begins in 1986 in the rubble of Moammar Gadhafi's compound in Tripoli, Bab al-Aziziya.

The massive headquarters had been hit by U.S. bombs on the order of President Ronald Reagan. Two of Gadhafi's sons were injured and, the Libyan leader claimed, his 1-year-old adopted daughter, Hanna, was killed.

After the raid a doctor said there was no question: Little Hanna was dead. She had severe fractures, she was in shock, he claimed, and she expired before a surgeon could reach her.

Gadhafi later said he adopted another little girl and also called her Hanna in honor of his daughter who had died. Over the years, as this "second" Hanna grew up, the colonel appeared in public with her. There are pictures on the Internet, including one of her at her sister Aisha's wedding.

The "second" Hanna became a doctor, working at the Central Hospital of Tripoli, just a short drive from the compound. At the hospital, CNN obtained documents showing that a doctor named Hanna Gadhafi was on staff.

Dr. Hatem Yousef said he worked with her. She was very professional, he said, but her private life was a closed book. "We did talk to her, but I mean, her personal life and so on - that was not up for discussion. She is who she is. "

A CNN crew was allowed to shoot pictures of her office and other areas of the hospital. While the rest of the doctors had to make do with old, ripped furniture in their lounge, Hanna had her own well-decorated office with cream-colored leather sofas and chairs, a leather desk set and even an espresso machine.

On the desk: Three phones: One external line, one internal line and a direct line to the Gadhafi compound.

Staff at the hospital told us that last month, on the day the rebels took over Tripoli, Hanna stayed on the job. Her bodyguards insisted that she leave and, at the last minute, she fled with them but where she went is still unknown. Some Libyans believe she could be with her father, hiding out wherever he might be.

When the rebels entered Gadhafi's compound they found the family's medical records, including Hanna's. But - which Hanna?

The theories are worthy of an Agatha Christie thriller.

Aisha Nozuf, a medical student in Tripoli, thinks the first Hanna never was killed. "Of course she didn't die," she said. "All the media outlets are writing that she is alive."

Other Libyans are skeptical too. Businessman Tawfeeq Zintani said, "I think it's just another propaganda of a dictator who lived to lie to his people."

Why would he lie?

Abou-Baker, a Libyan who lives in Canada, said, "To make people feel sorry for him and to keep them fighting and killing each other."

Still others believe Gadhafi really did adopt another daughter after the "first" Hanna died.

Then there are those, like the vice director of the hospital, who have a more elaborate theory: Hanna, whether it was the "first" or "second," was not adopted. She was the biological daughter of the dictator - by a woman other than his wife.
"The texture, you know, the face. They're - it's like Gadhafi," Dr. Isam Bin Massoud said. "It's her blood. It's his blood. That's what we know, that's what we think. The real truth - we don't know really."

Neither, it seems, does anyone else in Libya.


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