The whereabouts of Col. Moammar Gadhafi are puzzling the Libyan capital, the Guardian newspaper reported Tuesday.
Gadhafi, 69, has not been seen in public since he reportedly escaped April 30 NATO air strikes that killed one of his sons, Saif al-Arab, NBC News said. At least two NATO bombs struck the family compound while Gadhafi was there.
At the time, his supporters said Gadhafi had escaped "unhurt" even though they admitted he was there.
As to whether he is still in command of Libyan forces, a senior U.S. official was less definitive, calling Qaddafi "very isolated" and "hurting one way or another" because of the increasing tempo of NATO attacks.
The official would not say if the U.S. knew where Gadhafi was but noted that there were attacks on leadership targets over the weekend.
The Guardian talked to Gadhafi supporters concerned about their leader's disappearance while NATO attacks were taking their toll.
NATO warplanes struck a Tripoli command center on Tuesday after pounding regime targets around the besieged port of Misrata.
"Yes it's true that his absence is strange," one man in an inner-city coffee shop told the Guardian. He was not at his son's funeral and I thought he would be."
Gadhafi was absent from the funerals of Saif al-Arab and three grandchildren who were also reportedly killed in the attack, the Guardian said. Officials blamed security fears as government officials claimed the strike on his son's home had been an assassination attempt on Gadhafi.
"It's obvious that they tried to kill him and I imagine his security people have told him to keep a low profile," one senior Libyan official told the Guardian. "But it is strange that he has stayed silent since."
NATO claims it is not targeting Gadhafi.
"All NATO targets are military targets," Italian Brig. Gen. Claudio Gabellini, who serves on NATO’s planning staff at the headquarters in Naples, told a weekly press briefing Tuesday.
"We have no evidence about what Mr. Gadhafi is doing right now, and I tell you the truth we’re not really interested in what he is doing," Gabellini said.
Gadhafi appeared in public and on state television several times after the Libyan uprising began in February.
Libya's prime minister, Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi, told the Guardian he has taken over addressing the international media weekly.
Tribal chiefs also assumed more prominent roles, the Guardian said. After a national conference of 850 tribes from all parts of Libya was held in Tripoli last week, tribal chiefs gained more authority to arbitrate national disputes.
Mahmoudi defended Gadhafi's low profile. "He has lost a son and he is mourning," he said. "He will be back with us soon."
Another official told the Guardian rumors about Gadhafi being wounded in the NATO airstrike were false.
A European diplomat agreed, telling the Guardian: "Our understanding is that he is still about and that he is very upset about the death of his son."