News / Africa

Gadhafi Son's House Gives No Hint Family Would Fall

The front door of Mohammed Gadhafi's Tripoli house damaged during his brief capture.
The front door of Mohammed Gadhafi's Tripoli house damaged during his brief capture.


Elizabeth Arrott

Algeria state media report that members of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's family are in Algeria, among them, his son Mohammed.  Rebels briefly held the eldest Gadhafi son a week ago.  Neighbors say Mohammed Gadhafi escaped by taking advantage of the opposition's goodwill.

It does not look like Mohammed Gadhafi planned on going anywhere.  Six months after a rebellion against his father began, the Libyan leader's eldest son was moving his family from his old home next door into this.

Tags are still on the furniture.  Cream for the new leather sofas is waiting to be applied.

Neighbor Mohammed Arab, who in regular times runs a car rental company, shows us room after newly-finished room. "If you want to compare it, you can only compare it to other sons or other people who work in the government.  You can't compare to normal Libyan people," he said.

A rebel fighter for the past three months, Arab points to signs that the leader's son knew he was not universally loved.  

There's a secret door in the bookcase.  Mohammed Gadhafi's car is -- almost -- bulletproof.  And the doors are heavily fortified.

"They tried to open the door," Arab said.

Rebels surrounded the house a week ago and negotiated Mohammed Gadhafi's surrender.  They say he asked for one hour before coming out, then seemed to change his mind, calling the al-Jazeera channel in apparent panic.  

"The shooting  --  when he said to Jazeera 'these bullets and shooting, it's in my house. It's in my house!'
He started crying. It's not in his house, no. The rebels were outside the house and they were celebrating that Mohammed was surrounded," Arab said.

Only then, Arab says, there was a firefight, and rebels broke into the compound and arrested the younger Gadhafi.  Opposition authorities said to let family members stay in their home for the time being and the local rebel group agreed.

Mohammed Arab says guards were posted outside the compound, but then, in one of the more embarrassing moments for the opposition,  pro-Gadhafi forces overran their positions the next day, and whisked Mohammed Gadhafi and his family to safety, now, apparently in Algeria.

"They could put them in prison or somewhere. They didn't want that.  They are neighbors, not for 10 or 20, but more than 30 years," Arab said.  

Arab has no regrets.  He is just glad Tripoli is under rebel control.

As for the house, Arab and his fellow fighters say they do not want it and that it is up to the new government to figure out what to do with it.

"We don't need houses. We don't need money. Just our freedom." he said.

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