Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi’s son, arrested, Libyan commander says

saif al-islam gaddafi
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi
TRIPOLI— Saif al-Islam, the favored son of former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, was arrested on the border with Niger while his supporters were trying to smuggle him out of the country, a Libyan commander said Saturday.

Othman Maigeta, a brigade commander, confirmed that the once high-profile member of the ruling family was detained and taken to the mountain city of Zintan. The city is home to one of the largest groups of fighters that swept across the west of the country, ultimately toppling the regime in August.

The announcement by Maigeta, made at a news conference at the Radisson hotel in the Libyan capital, was greeted with celebratory gunfire, singing and dancing.

Scenes of joy broke out in the streets as the news was announced on Libyan television, and people hung out of the windows of their cars, honking horns, flashing lights and flying the red, black and green revolutionary tricolor. Cries of “Allahu Akbar” filled the air as crowds hugged each other and wept.

Moammar Gaddafi was captured outside his hometown of Sirte last month, but was immediately killed in a mob attack. He was later buried quietly in the desert.

Saif al-Islam, the eldest son of Moammar Gaddafi and his second wife, was a prominent international spokesman for the regime. He was educated in London and portrayed himself as a reforming force.

But he became a leading force of the Gaddafi regime’s struggle for survival and is wanted for trial by the International Criminal Court, which has been negotiating with people who claimed to his representatives about his possible surrender.

Rebels from Zintan have maintained their status as a fighting force and control parts of Tripoli, as well as patrolling areas in the south of the country. Commanders said that the arrest was made in Obari, in the desert, 400 miles south of Tripoli.

Rumors had been circulating for weeks about the whereabouts of the man who was poised to take over from his father in ruling Libya, and who was both politically influential and widely reviled.

Fighting last week near the Western town of Zawiya intensified after word spread that Saif al-Islam was hiding in a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of Tripoli.

News by Washington Post

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