Gaddafi son captured in Libyan desert
Tripoli, November 19, 2011
Muammar Gaddafi's son and once heir apparent Saif al-Islam has been captured in the southern Libyan desert by fighters who vowed to hold him in their mountain town of Zintan until there was an administration to hand him over to.
The fighters claimed his capture as gunfire and car horns expressed jubilation across Libya at the seizure of the British-educated 39-year-old who a year ago seemed set for a dynastic succession to rule the oil-producing African desert state.
Saif al-Islam and three armed companions were taken without a fight overnight, officials said, and he was not injured -- unlike his father, who was killed a month ago on Sunday after being captured in his home town.
"We have arrested Saif al-Islam Gaddafi in (the) Obari area," Justice Minister Mohammed al-Alagy told Reuters, adding that the younger Gaddafi, wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court at The Hague, was not injured.
A photograph of Saif al-Islam showed him lying on what appeared to be a reclining sofa with his fingers wrapped in bandages and his legs covered with a thick, brown blanket. The wounds were apparently sustained earlier.
The Zintan fighters, who make up one of the powerful militia factions holding ultimate power in a country still without a government, said they planned to keep him in Zintan, until they could hand him over to the authorities.
Prime minister-designate Abdurrahim El-Keib is scheduled to form a government by Tuesday, and the fate of Saif al-Islam, whom Libyans want to try at home before, possibly, handing him over to The ICC, will be an early test of its authority.
Muammar Gaddafi's beating, abuse and ultimate death in the custody of former rebel fighters was an embarrassment to the previous transitional government. Officials in Tripoli said they were determined to handle his son's case with more order.
A fighter from the anti-Gaddafi force, the Khaled bin al-Waleed Brigade, which said it seized him in the wilderness near the oil town of Obari told Free Libya television: "We got a tip he had been staying there for the last month.
"THEY COULDN'T GET AWAY"
"They couldn't get away because we had a good plan," Wisam Dughaly added, saying Saif al-Islam had been using a 4x4 vehicle: "He was not hurt and will be taken safely for trial so Libyans will be able to prosecute him and get back their money.
"We will take him to Zintan for safekeeping to keep him alive until a government is formed and then we will hand him over as soon as possible," Dughaly said.
He added that Saif al-Islam, once seen as a reformer who engineered his father's rapprochement with the West but who is now wanted at The Hague for war crimes against the rebels, appeared to have been hiding out in the desert since fleeing the tribal bastion of Bani Walid, near Tripoli, in October.
Justice Minister Alagy said he was in touch with the ICC over how to deal with Gaddafi, either at home or The Hague.
He told Al Jazeera: "We Libyans do not oppose the presence of international monitors to monitor the trial procedures that will take place for the symbols of the former regime."
Other Libyan officials have said a trial in Libya should first address killings, repression and wholesale theft of public funds over the four decades of the elder Gaddafi's personal rule. After that, the ICC might try him accusing him of giving orders to kill unarmed demonstrators after February's revolt.
There was no word of the other official wanted by the ICC, former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi.
Bashir Thaelba, a Zintan commander told reporters in Tripoli: "The rebels of Zintan announce that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has been arrested along with three of his aides today," Thaelba said in remarks carried on Libyan television.
"We hope at this historical moment that the future of Libya will be bright."
The ICC's Office said on Saturday it had received confirmation of the arrest of Saif al-Islam, from Libya's Ministry of Justice.
"We are coordinating with the Libyan Ministry of Justice to ensure that any solution with regards to the arrest of Saif al-Islam is in accordance with the law," ICC prosecution office spokeswoman Florence Olara said.
In June the ICC issued arrest warrants for Muammar Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi on charges of crimes against humanity after the U.N. Security Council referred the Libyan crisis to the court in February.
The ICC said last month that Saif al-Islam was in contact via intermediaries about possibly surrendering, but that it also had information that mercenaries were trying to take him to a friendly African nation where he could evade arrest.-Reuters