VIDEO: Gaddafi son who made vow to die fighting is caught
Libyans jubilant as injured Saif al-Islam is captured by fighters in desert after tip-off
Published 20/11/2011 | 05:00
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.
Saif 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 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, said. Saif al-Islam said that he was OK and that his hand was bandaged due to wounds sustained in a Nato air strike a month ago.
The 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 the authorities. 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 (ICC) 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.
Libyans believe Saif al-Islam holds the key to billions of dollars of public money amassed by the Gaddafi family but his captors said they found only a few thousand dollars and a cache of rifles in seized vehicles.
Mr Ammar said 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 Saif al-Islam and four others in the desert about 70 km from the small oil town of Obari.
"We have arrested Saif al-Islam Gaddafi in (the) Obari area," Justice Minister Mohammed al-Alagy said, adding that the younger Gaddafi was not injured.
After the fighters fired in the air and ground the cars to a halt, they asked the identity of the passengers. The man in charge replied that he was "Abdelsalam" -- a name that means 'servant of peace'. But the fighters quickly recognised Saif al-Islam and seized him without a fight.
His thumb, index and another finger were heavily bandaged from the wounds sustained in the Nato strike.