Libyan rebels, ICC negotiate handover of Gaddafi's son

Large rebel column heads to Tripoli's Green Square; forces loyal to Libyan leader still control 15-20% of capital; Gaddafi's whereabouts remain unknown; leader makes 2 audio addresses on state TV.

By REUTERS
August 22, 2011 12:51
4 minute read.

Libyan rebels celebrate 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

DUBAI - Libyan rebels are negotiating with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to arrange the handover of Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam who was detained late on Sunday, al Arabiya TV reported on Monday without naming a source.

The ICC in June issued arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son Saif
al-Islam and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi on charges of crimes against humanity after the UN Security Council referred the Libyan situation to the court in February.

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Rebel National Transitional Council Coordinator Adel Dabbechi confirmed Saturday night that Gaddafi's younger son Saif had been captured. The International Criminal Court in The Hague confirmed he had been held and said he should be handed over for trial.


Gaddafi's other son Khamis was leading a military force towards central Tripoli, Al Arabiya TV said on Tuesday, citing rebel sources. The Dubai-based channel said the forces departed from Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound.

Gaddafi's eldest son Mohammed Al-Gaddafi had surrendered to rebel forces, Dabbechi told Reuters. In a television interview, the younger Gaddafi said gunmen had surrounded his house, but he later told al-Jazeera in a phone call that he and his family were unharmed.

The fighters swept into the heart of Tripoli and crowds took to the streets to celebrate what they saw as the end of Muammar Gaddafi's four decades of power, but a government fightback was reported as dawn broke on Monday.

A column of hundreds of rebel fighters and pickup trucks carrying rocket launchers moved through the Libyan capital towards the central Green Square on Monday, a Reuters reporter in the city said.

The rebels in the column were shouting "Allahu Akbar!" or "God is greatest!"

Tanks emerged from Gaddafi's stronghold in the center of the Libyan capital and were shelling the area, Al Jazeera television reported.

Despite euphoria among rebels and their backers in Tripoli and elsewhere, a rebel spokesman, identified on Al Jazeera as Nasser, said government troops still controlled "about 15 to 20 percent of the city".

Earlier, rebels waving opposition flags and firing into the air drove into Green Square, a symbolic showcase the government had until recently used for mass demonstrations in support of the now embattled Gaddafi. Rebels immediately began calling it Martyrs Square.

Two of Gaddafi's sons were captured by the rebels, but the whereabouts of Gaddafi himself were unknown.

The rebels made their entrance into the capital driving in convoy through a western neighborhood.

Remaining defiant, Gaddafi earlier had made two audio addresses over state television calling on Libyans to fight off the rebels.

"I am afraid if we don't act, they will burn Tripoli," he said. "There will be no more water, food, electricity or freedom."

But resistance to the rebels initially appeared to have largely faded away, allowing the rebels and their supporters to demonstrate in Green Square.

Libyans kissed the ground in gratitude for what some called a "blessed day".

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Near Green Square youths burned the green flags of the Gaddafi government and raised the rebel flag. One rebel fighter from the Western mountain said: "We are so happy -- we made it here without any problems."

Many Tripoli residents received a text message from the rebel leadership saying: "God is Great. We congratulate the Libyan people on the fall of Muammar Gaddafi."

Gaddafi, a colorful and often brutal autocrat who has ruled Libya for more than 40 years, said he was breaking out weapons stores to arm the population. His spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, predicted a violent reckoning by the rebels.

"A massacre will be committed inside Tripoli if one side wins now, because the rebels have come with such hatred, such vendetta ... Even if the leader leaves or steps down now, there will be a massacre."

After six months, Tripoli falls quickly

After a six-month civil war, rebels moved quickly into Tripoli, with a carefully orchestrated uprising launched on Saturday night to coincide with the advance of rebel troops on three fronts. Fighting broke out after the call to prayer from the minarets of the mosques.

The United Nations then acted quickly, clearing the way for creation of a no-fly zone that NATO, with a campaign of bombing, used ultimately to help drive back Gaddafi's forces.

In Benghazi in the east, thousands gathered in a city-centre square waving red, black and green opposition flags and trampling on pictures of Gaddafi as news filtered through of rebel advances into Tripoli.

Celebratory gunfire and explosions rang out over the city and cars blaring their horns crowded onto the streets. Overhead, red tracer bullets darted into a black sky.

"It does look like it is coming to an end," said Anthony Skinner, Middle East analyst, Maplecroft. "But there are still plenty of questions. The most important is exactly what Gaddafi does now. Does he flee or can he fight?"

Gaddafi, in his second audio broadcast in 24 hours, dismissed the rebels as rats.

"I am giving the order to open the weapons stockpiles," Gaddafi said. "I call on all Libyans to join this fight. Those who are afraid, give your weapons to your mothers or sisters.

"Go out, I am with you until the end. I am in Tripoli. We will ... win."

A Libyan government official told Reuters that 376 people on both sides of the conflict were killed in fighting overnight on Saturday in Tripoli, with about 1,000 others wounded.


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