News / Africa

Gadhafi's Son Says Government Still Controls Tripoli

A rebel fighter walks in downtown Tripoli, Libya, August 23, 2011
A rebel fighter walks in downtown Tripoli, Libya, August 23, 2011

The son and one-time heir apparent of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Seif al-Islam, defiantly appeared in Tripoli early Tuesday, saying his father's government still controlled the city, as rebels claimed to hold most of the capital.

Seif al-Islam presented himself to foreign journalists confined to the Gadhafi-controlled Rixos Hotel, despite earlier claims by opposition leaders that he was in rebel hands.  He then led a convoy through loyalist areas, where television footage showed him pumping his fists in the air as supporters cheered him.

The Libyan Rebellion

  • February 15, 2011: Inspired by Arab Spring revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, riots break out in Benghazi
  • February 26, 2011: The U.N. Security Council imposes sanctions on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and his family. The International Criminal Court is asked to investigate the crackdown on rebels.
  • March 19, 2011: U.S., Britain and France launch U.N.-mandated air attacks over Libya to halt advances on civilians by Mr. Gadhafi's forces.
  • March 30, 2011: Libyan Foreign Minister, Moussa Koussa, defects and flies to Britain. Other senior officials follow suit.
  • April 30, 2011: A NATO missile attack on a house in Tripoli kills Mr. Gadhafi's youngest son and three grandchildren.
  • June 27, 2011: The International Criminal Court issues arrest warrants for Mr. Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi.
  • July 15, 2011: The United States recognizes the Transitional National Council as the legitimate government of Libya.
  • July 28, 2011: Former interior minister Abdel Fattah Younes, who defected to the rebels in February and became their military chief, is killed.
  • August 20, 2011: Rebels launch their first attack on the nation's capital, Tripoli, in coordination with NATO forces.

The International Criminal Court on Tuesday disputed reports that it had confirmed Seif al-Islam's detention, saying the court never received official word from the opposition Transitional National Council.

Senior rebel sources also said another of Gadhafi's sons - Mohammed - escaped house arrest Monday. A third son is apparently still in detention, and Mr. Gadhafi's whereabouts are not known.  

The head of the opposition council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, said Gadhafi will receive a fair trial if captured and that the "real moment of victory" will be when he is taken into custody.

Jalil acknowledged that the rebels have yet to establish full control in Tripoli, where forces loyal to Mr. Gadhafi have battled rebels in scattered pockets.  Opposition fighters say pro-government forces still hold 10-15 percent of the capital, including Mr. Gadhafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound.

Meanwhile, the International Organization for Migration said Tuesday the fighting in Tripoli has forced it to delay docking a boat to begin evacuating stranded migrants.  The group says the boat, which can carry 300 people, will remain off shore until the security situation improves.

Libyan state television remained off the air late Monday amid reports that rebels seized what had become a key instrument of government propaganda.

In addition to parts of Tripoli, pro-government forces also control at least two major cities affiliated with his tribe - Sabha, to the south, and Sirte, some 450 kilometers east of capital along the coast.  NATO says government forces fired three Scud missiles toward the city of Misrata.  No injuries were reported.

The rebels broke through Tripoli's outer defenses Sunday and reached the city's central Green Square, where thousands celebrated the opposition's arrival. Jubilant Libyans in the square, which the rebels have renamed Martyrs Square, tore down posters of Gadhafi and stomped on them. Until recently, the government had used the area for mass demonstrations in support of Gadhafi.

Gadhafi 42-Year Reign Marked by Controversy

Moammar Gadhafi, whose rule appears to be coming to an end in Libya, is the Arab world's longest-serving ruler, in power since 1969 when he deposed the King Idris in a military coup.

Colonel Gadhafi gained a reputation as an eccentric, donning flowing robes and animal skins and surrounding himself with all female bodyguards.

Labeled the "mad dog of the Middle East" by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, the Libyan leader drew attention for his often-controversial political decisions.


The rebel troops moved into central Tripoli with little resistance after capturing a key military base run by the government's elite Khamis Brigade and commanded by another of Gadhafi's sons.

On Sunday, Libyan state television broadcast a series of defiant audio messages from Gadhafi. The Libyan leader said he would stay in the capital "until the end" to defend the city and called on supporters to help liberate it.

Gadhafi has seen the areas under his control shrink significantly in recent weeks as rebels advanced on Tripoli after six months of fighting to end his four-decade long rule. NATO warplanes have been supporting the rebels by bombing pro-Gadhafi forces under a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing military action to protect Libyan civilians from government attacks.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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