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"Gaddafi's Airbus to Rebels..."

Col Muammar Gaddafi's private airliner, until recently an international symbol of his iron grip on Libya, has become, for now, a leather-lined lounge for opposition forces holding Tripoli's international airport. Yesterday the rebels took turns to be photographed sitting in the deposed dictator's bedroom or on well-upholstered sofas on board the Airbus A340, which Gaddafi bought for 83 million in 2003. Like everything Gaddafi owned, the aircraft is a showcase for his vulgar tastes, with armchairs bound in silver leather, red and grey carpets on the floor and nightclub-style spotlights all over the ceiling. The same aircraft became infamous the world over in 2009 when Gaddafi sent it to Glasgow, with his son Saif al-Islam on board, to bring home the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, whose arrival in Tripoli was used as a propaganda showpiece by the former leader. Operated for Gaddafi by Tripoli-based Afriqiyah airways, the Airbus has been grounded since Nato imposed a no-fly zone over Libya six months ago, but has at least survived the fate of some of the airline's other planes, which have been reduced to ashes after being hit by missiles. A few miles away, on the Mediterranean coast, other rebel fighters revelled in the opportunity of relaxing on French Renaissance-style furniture on a patio at the summer home of Gaddafi's wife Safiah. The beachfront villa, now covered in graffiti by the rebels, is the latest of numerous Gaddafi family homes to be entered and looted. Among the personal possessions discovered there was a photograph album containing black and white pictures of a youthful Gaddafi with his wife, who is wearing calf-length boots and an above the knee dress. Other fading photos found in the villa include colour shots of the former leader with two of his sons when they were young boys.

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