Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, widely held to be his father’s most likely successor, said 20,000 armed soldiers were ready to defend Sirte, the central Libyan city that was Col Gaddafi’s birthplace and remains his firmest stronghold.
“We are coming soon to liberate the Green Square in Tripoli,” Saif al-Islam told Al-Rai television station in Syria, which is facing its own uprising. He claimed he was in the outskirts of Tripoli, and that his father was “fine”.
“We are going to die in our land,” he said. “We would like to assure people that we are steadfast and the commander is doing well. We want to reassure the Libyan people that we are still here. The resistance continues and victory is near.”
He continued: “Every Libyan is Moammar Gaddafi, every Libyan is Seif al-Islam. Wherever you find yourself face to face with the enemy, fight him. We are fine. The leadership is fine and the leader is fine. We are happy, we are drinking coffee and tea with our companions and we are fighting.”
Saif al-Islam also slammed NATO for dealing with an ex-member of al Qaeda, who he said had been appointed to a senior position in the capital Tripoli. “You will regret this a lot,” he said.
“The resistance continues and victory is near,” he said in the message. “We must wage a campaign of attrition day and night until these lands are cleansed from these gangs and traitors,” Saif al-Islam said.
His statement appeared to contradict comments from another of Gaddafi’s sons Saadi who said he had contacted Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) to try and stop the bloodshed.
“The most important thing is to stop the bloodshed,” Saadi Gaddafi said, claiming he was representing his father. The chief of anti-Gaddafi forces in Tripoli Abdel Hakim Belhadj told Reuters that Saadi had contacted him and asked to join the NTC forces if his safety was assured.
“I spoke to him personally,” Abdul Hakim Belhadj said. “He called and revealed his intention to come on the side of the rebels. We told Saadi we would guarantee him decent treatment in line with the human rights, legal rights of any Libyan person.”
He said Saadi had told him he had not killed anyone, and was “not against the people”. “I told him ‘This is good’,” Mr Belhaj said. “What is important for us is not to shed Libyan blood. For the members of the regime to surrender is the best way to do this.”
At the same time, the regime’s chief spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, rejected a rebel ultimatum to surrender in Sirte and two other cities that are holding out, Bani Walid and Sabha, by Saturday to avoid further bloodshed.
Mr Ibrahim had told the Associated Press news agency by telephone: “No dignified honourable nation would accept an ultimatum from armed gangs.” The interviews did not reveal the whereabouts of any of the men, although Mr Belhaj said he knew where Saadi was but preferred to negotiate a surrender.
Saif al-Islam said he was speaking from the “outskirts” of Tripoli and referred to a meeting of loyalist leaders in Bani Walid. That would fit with claims that Khamis Gaddafi, another son, was killed last Friday on his way from Tripoli to the town, which lies two hours’ drive to the south.
One of Khamis’s guards, held by the rebels, told The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday that Col Gaddafi and Khamis had met in the south of Tripoli on Friday before heading south. Aisha Gaddafi, the dictator’s daughter, who later arrived in Algeria with her mother and two of her brothers, Mohammed and Hannibal, was also there.
International leaders, including UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are in Paris to discuss Libya’s future.