A senior Libyan government official landed at Cairo's international airport in a surprise visit on Monday, fueling rumors of yet another high-level defection in the regime of Muammar Gaddafi.
The security official, Nassr al-Mabrouk Abdullah, entered Egypt on a tourist visa along with nine members of his family, the New York Times reported. Abdullah serves as the deputy interior minister in Gaddafi's regime.
Abdullah and his family arrived in Cairo "unexpectedly" on a private plane that departed from Djerba, Tunisia, according to the Times. Djerba is a resort island in southern Tunisia a few hours drive from Tripoli, and also home to the closest airfield for Gaddafi officials seeking to circumnavigate the NATO blockade.
CNN, citing an anonymous source in the Libyan government, reported that Abdullah was on "nonofficial" business in Egypt.
Libya's government spokesman also confirmed that Abdullah had left Libya for personal reasons, but refused to comment on the exact nature of his trip to Egypt.
"In the last while, we noticed that [Abdullah] had intense social pressures on him," Gaddafi spokesman Musa Ibrahim told CNN. "Truthfully, he has fallen under a lot of social and emotional pressure as we've noticed. He couldn't handle it and preferred that he left."
It was not immediately clear in Egypt if Abdullah's trip was a vacation or actually a defection, as some have news agencies have speculated.
Several Libyan diplomats and other high-ranking officials have defected in the six months of conflict between pro-Gaddafi troops and rebels, who have been demanding and fighting for the ouster of Libya's leader of four decades.
Another defection would add to the mounting pressure on Gaddafi, with rebels claiming to be advancing and closing in on Tripoli from several fronts over the weekend.
Rebels declared victory in parts of the strategic coastal city of Zawiya on Saturday, reported the Associated Press, closing off oil distribution lines that feed Libya's capital, Tripoli, a mere 30 miles away.
"It's becoming increasingly clear that Gadhafi's days are numbered," White House press secretary Jay Carney told the AP.
Meanwhile, Gaddafi's forces fired a scud missile for the first time since the uprising began in February, according to Voice of America. The projectile was apparently aimed at rebel positions near Brega in eastern Libya, but landed in the middle of the desert and failed to strike anything.