Saif Gaddafi offered villager €1m to take him out of Libya
Published 22/11/2011 | 14:21
A VILLAGE tribesman was offered one million euros to drive Saif al-Islam Gaddafi across the Libyan border into Niger, from where he would return"to claim his country".
Yusef Saleh al-Hotmani, a village tribesman turned tour guide from Berqan, deep in the Libyan Sahara, said he had been offered the money to drive Saif al-Islam and four companions to a spot on the border with Algeria and Niger.
From there, Saif al-Islam was due to be picked up and driven into exile, “to return later and claim his country”, his men told his guide.
In fact, Mr Hotmani led the men to a hollow in the sand dunes, where men from the Zintan Brigade of former rebels were waiting.
”I thank Allah who made it possible for me to conquer this enemy,” Mr al-Hotmani, his face swathed in the desert's black head-scarf and new national flag draped round his shoulders, told The Daily Telegraph.
”I was offered millions but all the money they had would not buy a pebble of our sand or one drop of our martyrs' blood.”
Saif al-Islam was seized at 1.30 in the early hours of Saturday morning, surrounded in the hollow near Berqan by 14 Zintan men led by Alajami al-Ateri.
He is now being held in a secret location in Zintan, a town in the western Nafusa mountains. In a sign of the sway his dramatic capture has given the town, the head of its military council and the man responsible for his welfare, Osama Jueili, is set to be named defence minister in the new interim government, according to numerous sources.
At first, the brigade said it would keep the identity of the man who turned in Saif al-Islam secret for his own safety. On Tuesday, he said he had already received death threats from pro-Gaddafi supporters but no longer cared what happened to him.
He hinted that the tale originally told by his captors, that after receiving the offer of money, made as he was an experienced desert guide, he decided to approach “sources in Zintan and Tripoli”, was only part of the story.
He said he had joined a local brigade of rebels at the beginning of the uprising. His conversations with the men around Saif al-Islam came about as a result of an approach by people to “work with them in a secret way and under cover”.
He met Mr al-Ateri on Friday to set the details of the trap. At that stage, he did not know the identity of the “VIP” he was supposed to be escorting, but he said he had a good idea who it was.
”He didn't know that I knew it was him,” he said. “Nobody told me but when I thought about it I came to the conclusion it was Saif.”
When he set off on Friday night, he drove Amr Abdulgasem Amr, the nephew of Col Gaddafi's right-hand man Abdullah Senussi, in his car, and a second car containing Saif and three other men followed at a distance. He purposefully left two kilometres between the two cars, so his own car could be seized in time for undivided attention to be brought on the one following.
He said Amr had brought with him two hand-guns and two hand-grenades, and he was sure he would die in the mission.
But there was only $4,000 rather than a million euros, and that convinced him that if he had carried on to the border, rather than being rewarded with money, he would be killed on the spot.
”That proved that there was no money, that he planned to execute me on the border,” he said. “But that was not my concern anyway.”
At the rendez-vous, he stopped the car and Amr was taken. Shortly after, Saif's car arrived, and the men lying in wait shot out his engine and caught him as he tried to run away.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, arrived in Tripoli on Tuesday to hold talks with the government on where Saif al-Islam would be put on trial. He said he had no intention of trying to visit him in Zintan.