Conflicting reports have emerged on the capture of Motassim Gaddafi, one of Muammar Gaddafi’s sons, in the Libyan city of Sirte.
A senior military commander inside Sirte said on Thursday that Motassim remained on the run, denying
reports that he was in custody.
“It is not true that Motassim was captured,” said Wesam Bin Hamid, brigade commander of the Martyrs of Free Libya Brigade, one of the new regime’s main units inside Gaddafi’s hometown.
“But some prisoners we have captured are saying that [Muammar] Gaddafi is in Sirte,” Bin Hamid added.
A National Transitional Council (NTC) official told the Reuters news agency that Motassim was being held in Benghazi, the Council’s eastern power base, after being arrested on Wednesday.
Colonel Abdullah Naker of the Tripoli Revolutionary Council was quoted as saying: “[Motassim] was arrested today in Sirte.”
Reacting to the reports of Motassim’s capture, Jalal el-Gallal, a spokesman for the NTC in Benghazi, told the Associated Press news agency that he called commanders in Sirte and that “so far as we are concerned, there is no confirmation that Motassim Gaddafi has been captured”.
El-Gallal said that the NTC forces had captured some fighters close to Motassim.
Fighters in Sirte were celebrating the reports of his arrest on Wednesday night, while citizens in the capital Tripoli took the streets to sound their car horns and fire guns into the sky.
Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Tripoli, said he had spoken with several high-level NTC officials who had heard the news but could not confirm it.
A spokesman for the military said he had not spoken with anyone who had seen Motassim in custody.
The NTC claimed in August to have captured Gaddafi’s highest-profile son, Saif al-Islam, during the final battle for the capital, but that claim turned out to be false, and Saif appeared in public hours later.
If Motassim was captured, the NTC will be eager to question him regarding the whereabouts of his father and brothers, who are thought to have fled Tripoli as it fell into opposition hands in late August.
Motassim served as his father’s national security adviser while the regime was still in power, but was not seen as being as prominent as his brothers Saif, Saadi or Khamis.
Saif was considered Gaddafi’s likely successor, Saadi was known for his failed Italian football career, and Khamis controlled the country’s most powerful military unit, which was named after him.
All four, particularly Motassim, Saif and Khamis, are loathed by many Libyans for the role they played in Gaddafi’s authoritarian state and in the crackdown against the uprising.
Saif, Saadi and Khamis’s whereabouts are unknown.