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The Qaddafi regime refuses to die

Ever since Libyans seemingly wrested control of Tripoli from Muammar al-Qaddafi on Aug. 21, most observers seemed content to give Libyans some time to savor their victory before getting down to the hard questions of reestablishing the rule of law in the country. That grace period officially ended at 7:28 pm on Aug. 22, when ...

Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Ever since Libyans seemingly wrested control of Tripoli from Muammar al-Qaddafi on Aug. 21, most observers seemed content to give Libyans some time to savor their victory before getting down to the hard questions of reestablishing the rule of law in the country. That grace period officially ended at 7:28 pm on Aug. 22, when Sultan Al Qassemi tweeted, "Breaking Al Arabiya: AFP: Saif Al Islam Gaddafi wasn't captured and is now in Tripoli."

The AFP report rebutted rebel claims that Saif al-Islam, Qaddafi's second-eldest son and former heir apparent, had been captured. It described seeing him inside Qaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli, which was later confirmed by video. Saif would then make a surprise appearance at the Rixos Hotel in central Tripoli, saying that his father was still in the capital and that the government had lured the rebels into a trap by entering the city.

The revelation that Saif remains free is not only a wakeup call that the rebels' control over the capital may be more tenuous than it first appeared - it is a bad omen for the Transitional National Council's reliability going forward. TNC chairman Mustafa Abdeljalil had personally confirmed that Saif was captured, saying that the rebel leadership had "given instructions to treat him well." It's not only the TNC with egg on its face: The International Criminal Court also announced that Saif had been captured, and was reportedly negotiating his transfer to The Hague.

Ever since Libyans seemingly wrested control of Tripoli from Muammar al-Qaddafi on Aug. 21, most observers seemed content to give Libyans some time to savor their victory before getting down to the hard questions of reestablishing the rule of law in the country. That grace period officially ended at 7:28 pm on Aug. 22, when Sultan Al Qassemi tweeted, "Breaking Al Arabiya: AFP: Saif Al Islam Gaddafi wasn’t captured and is now in Tripoli."

The AFP report rebutted rebel claims that Saif al-Islam, Qaddafi’s second-eldest son and former heir apparent, had been captured. It described seeing him inside Qaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli, which was later confirmed by video. Saif would then make a surprise appearance at the Rixos Hotel in central Tripoli, saying that his father was still in the capital and that the government had lured the rebels into a trap by entering the city.

The revelation that Saif remains free is not only a wakeup call that the rebels’ control over the capital may be more tenuous than it first appeared – it is a bad omen for the Transitional National Council’s reliability going forward. TNC chairman Mustafa Abdeljalil had personally confirmed that Saif was captured, saying that the rebel leadership had "given instructions to treat him well." It’s not only the TNC with egg on its face: The International Criminal Court also announced that Saif had been captured, and was reportedly negotiating his transfer to The Hague.

To make matters worse, Saif isn’t the only Qaddafi son that the rebels have had difficulty holding on to. Mohammad Qaddafi, who gave a phone interview to al Jazeera after being captured by the rebels that was interrupted by gunfire, would later escape with the help of Qaddafi loyalists.

Like the ending of any good horror movie, it appears the Qaddafi regime has resurrected itself for one last lunge at the rebels. In all likelihood, however, Saif and his cohort have lost too much territory and too many resources to pose a long-term threat to the TNC. The question of how the TNC could get such a crucial issue so wrong, however, will be with us for some time.

Tag: Libya

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