Rumor of the day: Qaddafi shot; Update: Qaddafi mercenaries shooting victims in hospitals?

So apocryphal is this that it didn’t even rate a mention on the Al Jazeera liveblog, which is scraping sources everywhere for the latest Libya news. But it’s a pleasant thought, so let’s daydream:

The U.S. government has no reason to believe that Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is dead, a U.S. official said on Thursday after oil traders cited a rumor that Gaddafi had been shot as pushing down oil prices.

Asked if Washington had reason to believe that Gaddafi, who is seeking to crush protests against his 41-year rule in the oil-exporting North African nation, was dead, the U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “No.”

We’ll know quickly if it happens, no? If someone in his inner circle shoots him, it’s because they’re prepared to surrender and turn off the money spigot for his mercenaries. If Qaddafi shoots himself, it’ll likely be preceded by some insane grand farewell gesture. Like, for instance…

The government of Col. Moammar Gadhafi hasn’t destroyed significant stockpiles of mustard gas and other chemical-weapons agents, raising fears in Washington about what could happen to them—and whether they may be used—as Libya slides further into chaos.

Tripoli also maintains control of aging Scud B missiles, U.S. officials said, as well as 1,000 metric tons of uranium yellowcake and vast amounts of conventional weapons that Col. Gadhafi has channeled in the past to militants operating in countries like Sudan and Chad…

“Had the destruction process not started, we would be facing a far more dangerous situation,” said Paula DeSutter, who helped oversee disarmament issues in George W. Bush’s State Department. “On the other hand, one would certainly feel more secure if all of the mustard gas had been eliminated.”

The media had fun this morning with Qaddafi blaming Bin Laden for putting drugs in the protesters’ coffee (“like Nescafe”) but the real story is rebels closing in on his last redoubt in Tripoli while western leaders close in on a plan to do … something. The NYT claims there’s fighting in at least four cities around the capital, and protesters are reportedly circulating a text message about a general protest in Tripoli tomorrow after mosque services. What that’ll turn into, given the reports of mercenaries hunting people on the streets, no one knows; supposedly, paramilitary units loyal to Qaddafi fired anti-aircraft missiles at a mosque where protesters were holed up this morning, resulting in “heavy casualties,” so a wholesale massacre tomorrow is on the table. Meanwhile, a Pentagon source says it’s preparing plans for military action just in case Obama needs them, and a former Obama advisor at the State Department is openly calling for intervention to avert a new Kosovo. But at the moment, the best hope for putting boots on the ground comes from … the EU?

In Brussels, senior officials said the European Union was weighing a range of options to evacuate 5,000-6,000 EU citizens still in Libya, many of them oil company employees, and said one possibility was a military humanitarian intervention force.

“We are in contact with EU member states to see whether their facilities, civilian and military, can be deployed for this (evacuation of EU citizens),” a senior EU official said…

Sky News quoted sources as saying the Special Boat Service, a special forces unit, was on standby for a possible rescue mission to Libya, but the government declined comment.

Chuck Todd at NBC has what he claims is the full list of options Obama is considering, from dumb gestures like bouncing Libya from the UN Human Rights Council to instituting a no-fly zone. Would that help at this point, though? It’d be one thing if the fighting were in the countryside, with Qaddafi’s air force targeting pockets of rebels, but the battlefield has shifted to Tripoli and there isn’t much news anymore of aircraft being used against protesters. (Robert Fisk is in Tripoli and says there was nothing in the sky yesterday.) The risk of confusing loyalists with protesters in street-to-street warfare might be high enough that Qaddafi would decide not to use planes and choppers and stick to ground forces. And since we’re not about to insert troops into an urban combat environment, that leaves the options for action … pretty slim.

Here’s Jay Carney flailing this afternoon after being asked why Obama won’t mention Qaddafi by name. Exit question: Assuming we know where Libya’s stockpile of chemical weapons is and that it’s located outside Tripoli, would/should some sort of western special ops team be sent in to grab it? Click the image to watch.

Update: Oh boy. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

A resident of the increasingly violent Libyan capital of Tripoli told CBS Radio News Thursday that armed supporters of Muammar Qaddafi, the country’s longtime leader, have stormed into hospitals to shoot wounded demonstrators and take dead bodies to an unknown location.

“They go in with guns into hospitals,” said the resident, identified only as Adel to protect his safety. “They take the bodies that are dead. In some hospitals, they have shot the wounded. This is true. I know it’s very strange for the States, but this is happening today in Tripoli.”…

That’s not the only action being taken to cover up what is happening in the capital, Adel said. Armed pro-government supporters Thursday were forcing people to help clean up parts of downtown Tripoli and paint buildings.

“There are some streets where he’s using the people in the houses; if they don’t go out, he will shoot them with gunpoint to do that,” Adel said.

He says they’re using helicopter gunships to target people, so yeah, potentially a no-fly zone still matters here.

Update: “Gaddafi’s days are numbered. He will do what Hitler did – he will take his own life.”

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