Col. Muammar el-Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam made a surprise appearance at a hotel with foreign journalists, and pockets of loyalist forces stubbornly resisted rebel efforts to take control of the capital.
He was greeted by several dozen supporters who were waving his portrait and that of his father, as well as Libyan flags. “I am here to refute the lies,” Gaddafi’s son said, referring to reports of his arrest. When he was asked if his father was still in Tripoli, Saif replied: “Of course”.
The international community called on Gaddafi to step down and moved ahead with post-war planning as euphoric residents celebrated in the Green Square, the symbolic heart of the Gaddafi regime.
“We will keep fighting until the last man standing, even to the last woman standing,” Saif al-Islam declared. As for the rebels: “We will eradicate them all.”
Another Gaddafi son, Muhammed, escaped from house arrest on Monday. ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo had earlier said the 39-year-old Gaddafi’s son was arrested and in detention.
“We hope he can soon be in The Hague” to face judgement, Mr Moreno-Ocampo said as he indicated he was planning to contact the transitional government later in the day.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague, which in June issued arrest warrants for Colonel Gaddafi, Seif al-Islam el-Gaddafi and Libya’s intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi, accusing them of crimes against humanity.
Saif al-Islam is accused together with his father with orchestrating a plan to put down the Libyan revolt by “any means necessary” since it was sparked in mid-February.
This included the murder of hundreds of pro-freedom Libyan protestors and injuring hundreds of others when security forces shot a crowds using live ammunition, as well as the arrest and torture of numerous others.
Before the rebelloin, Saif al-Islam was increasingly seen as a successor to his father, despite publicly ruling out any dynastic ambitions in the North African country.
Described as the Libyan strongman’s de facto prime minister and most influential person within his inner circle, Saif al-Islam is wanted because he “espoused and executed Muammer Gaddafi’s plan which led to the commission of the crimes”, a court document stated.
Long an advocate of better relations with the West, following Libya’s decision in 2003 to give up its weapons of mass destruction, Mr Gaddafi sought to close personal ties with Western leaders, especially in Britain.
He was once invited to Buckingham Palace by the Duke of York, and last year described Tony Blair as “a personal family friend”, although the former Prime Minister insisted he has only met the Libyan once.
Speaking impeccable English and usually immaculately dressed in a designer suit, Mr Gaddafi’s appeal may have been enhanced by his control of near-limitless amounts of money from the Libyan government’s oil revenue.
The uprising against Gaddafi broke out in mid-February, inspired by successful revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, Libya’s neighbors to the east and west respectively. A brutal regime crackdown quickly transformed the protests into an armed rebellion.
Rebels seized Libya’s east, setting up an internationally recognized transitional government there, and two pockets in the west, the port city of Misrata and the Nafusa mountain range.
In early August, however, rebels launched an offensive from the Nafusa Mountains, then fought their way down to the Mediterranean coastal plain, backed by NATO airstrikes, and captured the strategic city of Zawiya.
Clashes broke out early Monday at Gaddafi’s longtime command center known as Bab al-Aziziya early Monday when government tanks emerged from the complex and opened fire at rebels trying to get in, according to Abdel-Rahman and a neighbor.
The rebels’ top diplomat in London, Mahmud Nacua, said opposition forces controlled 95 percent of Tripoli. He vowed “the fighters will turn over every stone to find” Gadhafi and make sure he faced justice.
At the same time government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim claimed the regime has “thousands and thousands of fighters” and vowed: “We will fight. We have whole cities on our sides. They are coming en masse to protect Tripoli to join the fight.”
In a brief address from his vacation home on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., President Obama recognized both the historic nature of the rebels’ accomplishment and the troubles they face.
Saying that the future of Libya “is in the hands of its people,” he cautioned that “there will be huge challenges ahead.” He pledged that the United States would seek to help Libya in its attempt to establish democracy. [via The New York Times, The Telegraph and Huff Post]