Tripoli-19, November, 20119(Berberanews/Jazeera)-Muammar Gaddafi’s son and one-time heir apparent Saif al-Islam has been detained in the southern desert, Libya’s interim justice minister and other officials have said.
Fighters from the western mountain city of Zintan announced his capture on Saturday as gunfire and car horns marked jubilation across the country at the arrest of the British-educated 39-year-old who a year ago seemed set to follow his father as Libya’s leader.
Saif al-Islam and three armed companions were taken without a fight during the night, officials said. Gaddafi’s son was reportedly not injured, unlike Gaddafi himself, who was killed last month after being captured by fighters in his home town of Sirte.
“We have arrested Saif al-Islam Gaddafi in [the] Ubari area,” Mohammed al-Alagy, Libya’s acting justice minister, said.
The younger Gaddafi is wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.
Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from the coastal city of Misrata, said residents were in the streets celebrating the news.
A man who appeared to be Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, but whose identity was unconfirmed, was flown by Libyan militiamen to the town of Zintan on Saturday, a Reuters news agency correspondent, who was on the plane, said.
The unidentified man wore traditional robes with a scarf pulled over his face. The man’s thumb, index finger and another finger were heavily bandaged.
A crowd of hundreds thronged the runway in Zintan, preventing his captors from removing the prisoner and his male companions. Some onlookers tried to board the plane but were held back.
The Zintan fighters, one of the militia factions still at large in the country, said they planned to keep him detained in Zintan until there was an administration to hand him over to.
Abdurrahim El-Keib, the interim prime minister, is scheduled to form a government by Tuesday. The fate of Saif al-Islam, who Libyans want to try at home before possibly handing him over to the ICC, will be an early test of the fledgling government’s authority.
Gaddafi’s beating, abuse and ultimate death in the custody of former rebel fighters was an embarrassment to the previous transitional government. Officials in Tripoli said they were determined to handle his son’s case in a more orderly manner.
Wisam Dughaly, a fighter from the Khaled bin al-Waleed Brigade, said Saif al-Islam was seized in the wilderness near the oil town of Ubari.
“We got a tip he had been staying there for the last month. They couldn’t get away because we had a good plan,” Dughaly told Free Libya television adding that Saif al-Islam had been using 4×4 vehicle to elude captors.
Dughaly continued: “He was not hurt and will be taken safely for trial so Libyans will be able to prosecute him and get back their money. “We will take him to Zintan for safekeeping to keep him alive until a government is formed and then we will hand him over as soon as possible.”
He added that Saif al-Islam, once seen as a reformer who engineered his father’s rapprochement with the West, appeared to have been hiding out in the desert since fleeing the tribal bastion of Bani Walid in October.
Alagy said he was in talks with the ICC over how to deal with Gaddafi, either at home or The Hague.
He told Al Jazeera: “We Libyans do not oppose the presence of international monitors to monitor the trial procedures that will take place for the symbols of the former regime.”
Other Libyan officials have said a trial in Libya should first address killings, repression and wholesale theft of public funds over the four decades of the elder Gaddafi’s personal rule.
After that, the ICC might try him for alleged orders to kill unarmed demonstrators after February’s revolt. There was no word of the other official wanted by the ICC, former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi.
Bashir Thaelba, a Zintan commander told reporters in Tripoli: “The rebels of Zintan announce that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has been arrested along with three of his aides today.
“We hope at this historical moment that the future of Libya will be bright.”