As rival states jostle for power in Libya, the fate of one Gaddafi son hangs delicately in the balance

Hannibal Gaddafi has been held in Lebanon since 2015 in connection with the disappearance of three men in 1978 – when he was just two

Kim Sengupta
The Independent Voices

Syria and Russia have called for the release of Colonel Gaddafi’s fifth son ( AFP/Getty )

As the ninth anniversary of the revolution that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi approaches, Libya remains in a state of turmoil. Bloody clashes took place last week in the suburbs of Tripoli between rival militias while General Khalifa Haftar, the strongman saviour-in-waiting to his supporters, has launched a new offensive in the southwest. The largest oilfield of the oil-rich land remains shut, after an armed group took it over.

France and the UK instigated the Nato bombing campaign that led to the fall of the Gaddafi regime during the uprising. Foreign powers are back in what is now a dismembered state. The Italians, the French, the Americans, the Russians, the Egyptians and the Emiratis are all at present backing rival blocs competing for power. The UN-backed interim government has little reach outside the capital.

The Italians and the French are the main European power brokers. David Cameron may have led the chorus of “Gaddafi must go”, but Brexit Britain, wrapped in its own internal political turbulence, has little presence or influence in Libya except for some special forces.

Slowly emerging into this changing milieu – albeit still in the background – are the Gaddafis. Seven years and 10 months ago I saw the bodies of Muammar Gaddafi and his son Mutassim laid out on the floors of a meat warehouse in the city of Misrata for the public, queues of people, some families with children, who had waited for hours to see the grim display. The rebels and their international sponsors declared that the dynasty which had ruled the country for more than four decades was gone forever.

Colonel Gaddafi had been lynched after being captured and tortured as he tried to escape from his home town of Sirte, his last hiding place, as the tide of civil war turned against him. Mutassim was shot dead after being caught with his father. Another son, Khamis, who led a brigade named after himself in the conflict, was killed by a Nato airstrike at the end of August 2011, while another, Saif al-Arab, was reportedly killed after returning to Libya from Germany in April 2011.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the leader’s heir apparent, was also captured as he tried to flee Libya. He was sentenced to death by a court in Tripoli and the International Criminal Court announced that it would try him in The Hague. But the militia in the city of Zintan which had kept him in custody – after cutting off the two fingers with which he used to signal victory on TV – refused to hand him over.


Categories: Africa, Libya, North Africa

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