Muammar Gaddafi’s wife and three of his children fled Libya as thousands of rebels massed on the outskirts of the former dictator’s home town in preparation for an assault on the regime’s final major stronghold.
Algeria’s Foreign Ministry said Gaddafi’s wife Safia, his daughter Aisha and his sons Hannibal and Mohammed had entered Algeria on Monday morning.
“The wife of Moammar El Kadhafi, Safia, his daughter Aisha, his sons Muhammad and Hannibal, accompanied by their children entered in Algeria at 08:45 am (7:45 GMT) by the Algerian-Libyan border”, the ministry said in a statement issued by APS, without providing any indication on the former Libyan strongman himself.
“This information was brought to the attention of the Secretary General of the UN, the President of the Security Council and Mr. Mahmoud Djibril, President of the Executive Council of the National Transitional Council of Libya,” concluded the Ministery.
“We will ask for them back from Algeria”, told AFP an executive member of the National Transitional Council (CNT), Mohammed al-Allagy.
“We have promised to provide a just trial to all those criminals and therefore we consider this an act of aggression,” NTC spokesman Mahmoud Shamman told Reuters. “We are warning anybody not to shelter Gaddafi and his sons. We are going after them…to find them and arrest them.”
Algeria refused to take sides in the Libyan civil war, and has still not recognised the NTC. Unlike Gaddafi and Saif al-Islam, none of the four family members in Algeria have been indicted by the International Criminal Court. Mahmoud Shammam, chief spokesman for the NTC, said: “We have promised to provide a just trial to all those criminals and therefore we consider this an act of aggression.
The whereabouts of Gaddafi himself remained unknown last night and there was no sign of his other surviving sons, who have led the rearguard action against the rebellion. There were suggestions that Gaddafi was holed up in his home town of Sirte, 460km (280 miles) from Tripoli, preparing for a desperate final battle.
A senior rebel leader, Brig Gen Abdusalam al-Hasi, the head of the country’s special forces before he joined the uprising in February, said he believed the vanquished leader was with Touareg allies in the south-west of the country, close to the border with Algeria.
“The Touareg are supporting Gaddafi so I think he’s there,” he said.
One of Gaddafi’s sons, Mohammed, was captured last week but, in an embarrassing episode for the rebel leadership, he managed to escape. He and Hannibal, who embarrassed his father by making headlines with his luxurious lifestyle and acts of violence, were not central figures in the regime, though they held public roles and enjoyed the fruits of the dictatorship.
Colonel Gaddafi’s other sons – his one-time heir apparent, Saif al-Islam, and Khamis, head of the elite Khamis Brigade paramilitary group – have had a much greater role in defending the regime, and were still at large last night.
The rebels claimed yesterday that Khamis had been killed but similar previous reports of his demise have proved to be wrong. Ahmed Bani, a military spokesman, said Khamis may have died in a clash between rebels and a military convoy south of the capital on Saturday.
Safia Gaddafi is the dictator’s second wife and the mother of seven of his children. They have been married for 40 years and she is said to control a multimillionpound fortune. Safia, a shopper of some repute, is said to have met Gaddafi when she nursed him through a bout of appendicitis.
Their daughter Aisha is considered to be the most intelligent of the next generation, but not seen as a likely successor. A lawyer by profession, she helped with the defence of Saddam Hussein at the trial that led to his death sentence. She is said to have been involved in attempts to clear up the mess left by her brothers. She was named as a goodwill ambassador for Libya by the United
Nations in 2009 – an appointment that was withdrawn after the start of the regime’s bloody crackdown against demonstrations. She is pregnant and it was reported that she is to give birth the other day.
Hannibal acquired a reputation for violence while travelling and living in Europe. His arrest for mistreating two members of his staff while at a hotel in Geneva caused a diplomatic rift with Switzerland, in which two Swiss businessmen were jailed in Libya in retaliation.
On Monday, television footage showed the nanny of Hannibal’s children hiding in their home in Tripoli, horribly burned and scarred, apparently as a result of an attack some months ago by Hannibal’s wife, Aline Skaf. The nanny said that she had refused to beat one of their children, who would not stop crying.
Mohammed is the eldest son of Colonel Gaddafi and the only child of his first wife Fatiha, Mohammed has largely steered clear of politics. Born in 1970, he trained as a computer scientist and went on to chair the state-controlled General Post and Telecommunications Company, which runs Libya’s satellite networks, and shut down the internet at the beginning of protests. He was also head of the National Olympic Committee. Escaped from rebel hands after his capture last week. [via The Telegraph, Reuters, Ennahar Online and The Independent]