Saif al-Islam, the son of Muammar Gaddafi who was reported captured by Libyan opposition forces on Sunday, has made a defiant public appearance in Tripoli.
Television footage showed Saif, considered the most influential and politically active of Gaddafi’s children, pumping his fists in the air, smiling, waving and shaking hands with supporters. At one point, he was pictured holding his arms aloft with each hand making the “V” for victory sign.
“I am here to refute the lies,” Saif, 39, said on Monday in reference to reports of his arrest. He later visited the Rixos Hotel, where many members of the foreign media have been based since the conflict started, to speak to foreign journalists.
“We broke the back of the rebels. It was a trap. We gave them a hard time, so we are winning,” he said.
Gaddafi’s son told journalists that Tripoli, which has been a battleground for the past 24 hours, remained in government hands.
Asked whether his father was safe, Saif said: “Of course.”
He said he did not care about an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court in The Hague seeking him and his father for alleged crimes against humanity.
Earlier, armed pro-Gaddafi security men guarding the hotel took a small group of journalists to Gaddafi’s Bab al-Azizyah compound, where they had a meeting with Saif.
They returned to the hotel accompanied by Saif, who then spoke to journalists in the lobby before taking others of them back to the compound a short distance away for a brief visit.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor, had earlier said the 39-year-old had been arrested and was in detention.
But the ICC said on Tuesday that it had never received official confirmation of Saif’s capture from the opposition National Transitional Council (NTC).
“Different answers were given. That was a little ambiguous,” said ICC official Fadi el-Abdallah.
Waheed Burshan, an NTC member told Al Jazeera: “We had confirmation Saif al-Islam was arrested, but we have no idea how he escaped.”
Meanwhile, rebel forces said they had arrested Saadi Gaddafi, the beleaguered Libyan leader’s third son. The claim was made even as the location of other relatives and senior officials remained unknown.
Eldest son ‘escapes’
Gaddafi’s eldest son, Mohammad, who was also detained by rebels on Sunday night is reported to have escaped.
In an interview with Al Jazeera after he surrendered, Mohammad expressed his “sadness” at the fighting in Libya. The interview was interrupted by gunfire.
“What’s happening in Libya is very upsetting. The killing between brothers, between Muslims, is something that saddens me,” he said.
Mohammad was the chairman of Libya’s main state-run telecommunications firm, but his role in his father’s government was reportedly minimal, far smaller than Saif al-Islam’s.
Muammar Gaddafi has not appeared in public for several months, although he issued a brief audio recording on Sunday night to call on Libya’s tribes to march on the capital.
“How can you allow Tripoli to be burned?” he asked.
Three other Gaddafi sons – Hannibal, Mutasim and Khamis – have not been located. Hannibal had little role in politics, but Khamis headed a feared army unit that took a leading role in suppressing protests. Mutasim was an army officer and a security adviser to his father.
The Al-Arabiya news network reported on Monday that Khamis was travelling to central Tripoli with soldiers loyal to him, although there has been no confirmation of his whereabouts.
Abdullah al-Senussi, Gaddafi’s longtime intelligence chief and brother-in-law, also seems to have eluded the rebels.
He was last seen at the Rixos Hotel on Sunday, when he told foreign journalists that “Western intelligence” was “working alongside al-Qaeda to destroy Libya”.
Senussi was the third Libyan official charged by the ICC in June. The court accused him of carrying out a campaign of murder, mass arrest and torture.