| Abdel Salam Jalloud's (right) defection is seen as another major blow to Gaddafi [Reuters]
Muammar Gaddafi's former right-hand man, Abdel Salam Jalloud, has defected to rebel-held territory in Libya's Western Mountains, a rebel spokesman said.
Jalloud was a member of the junta that staged a 1969 coup bringing Gaddafi to power, and was seen as the North African oil producer state's second in command before falling out of Gaddafi's favour in the 1990s.
"He is definitely here in Zintan. He is under the control of the military council here," Massoud Ali, a local rebel spokesman, told Reuters on Friday.
"Commander Jalloud has managed to flee Tripoli with his family and arrived Friday in the town of Zintan," located in rebel-held territory southwest of the capital, another senior rebel said on condition of anonymity.
Jalloud was prime minister from 1972 to 1977.
Following his dispute with Gaddafi, he had retired from politics altogether and lived under virtual house arrest.
He reportedly was stripped of his passport and put under virtual house arrest, following a disagreement with Gaddafi.
Another blow to Gaddafi
Jalloud is from the influential Megarha clan and has remained a popular figure in Libya.
In October 2010, media controlled by Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam had mentioned Jalloud's name as a possible prime minister to lead the fight against corruption.
Pictures showing Jalloud in the western town of Zintan appeared on rebel Facebook pages. Jalloud did not issue any statements, but rebel spokesman Mahmoud Shammam said he had confirmed the defection on the telephone.
His defection to the rebellion is another blow to Gaddafi’s regime, which has been hit by several high-profile defections since an uprising began in February in the country's east
Rebels also said Jalloud could provide valuable information about Gaddafi's inner circle.