Saif al-Islam Gaddafi 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Libya Free TV via Reuters TV)
ZINTAN, Libya - Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam has been captured,
scared and with just a few thousand dollars, in the Libyan desert by
fighters who vowed to hold him in the mountain town of Zintan until
there was a government 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 was
set for a dynastic succession to rule the oil-producing desert state.
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al-Islam, who vowed to die fighting but was taken without firing a
shot, was arrested overnight, officials said, and he was not injured
during his seizure -- unlike his father, who was killed a month ago on
Sunday after being captured in his home town.
"At the beginning he was very scared. He thought we would kill him," Ahmed Ammar, one of his captors, told Reuters.
al-Islam told Reuters that he was okay and that his hand was bandaged
due to wounds sustained in a NATO air strike a month ago. Asked by
Reuters on the Soviet-made cargo plane which flew him to the town of
Zintan if he was feeling all right, Gaddafi said simply: "Yes."
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
Prime minister-designate Abdurrahim El-Keib is
scheduled to form a government by Tuesday, and the fate of Saif al-Islam
will be an early test of its authority. Libyans want to try him at home
before, possibly, handing him over to the International Criminal Court
which accuses him of crimes against humanity.
The European Union
urged Libyan authorities to ensure Saif al-Islam was brought to justice
in cooperation with the ICC whose prosecutor is heading for Libya soon
to discuss where and how the legal process will take place.
believe Saif al-Islam holds the keys in his head to billions of dollars
of public money amassed by the Gaddafi family but when captured, his
captors said, they found only a few thousand dollars and a cache of
rifles in seized vehicles.
Ammar told Reuters that his unit of 15
men in three vehicles, acting on a tip-off about a possible
high-profile fugitive had intercepted two cars carrying Gaddafi and four
others in the desert about 70 km (40 miles) from the small oil town of
Obari at about 1:30 a.m. (2330 GMT on Friday).
"We have arrested
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi in (the) Obari area," Justice Minister Mohammed
al-Alagy told Reuters, adding that the younger Gaddafi was not injured.
the fighters fired in the air and ground to halt the cars, they asked
the identity of the passengers. The man in charge replied that he was
"Abdelsalam" - a name that happens to mean 'servant of peace'. But the
fighters quickly recognized Saif al-Islam and seized him without a
The fighters put him at ease and he accepted that he would
be taken to Zintan, a town in the western mountains south of Tripoli
that was a stronghold of anti-Gaddafi rebels.
A crowd of hundreds
thronged the runway in Zintan, preventing his captors removing the
prisoner for an hour. Some people tried to board the plane but were held
back by the fighters, who all came from Zintan.
Saif al-Islam appeared relatively at ease and was not handcuffed as he sat on a bench at the rear of the plane.
traditional robes with a scarf pulled over his face, Saif al-Islam had a
heavy black beard and wore his rimless spectacles.
His thumb, index and another finger were heavily bandaged from the wounds sustained in the NATO strike.