Tripoli under our control, Gaddafi son says
Tripoli - Tripoli is "under control" of the regime, a son of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi claimed early Tuesday, after rebels said they had taken most of the capital and gunfire rattled the port city.
Saif al-Islam, wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, met with an AFP correspondent and two other journalists, after ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said rebel forces had arrested him.
"Tripoli is under our control. Everyone should rest assured. All is well in Tripoli," the defiant son of the Libyan strongman told the three journalists at a vacant lot outside his father's Bab al-Azizya compound in Tripoli in the very early hours of Tuesday.
"You have seen how the Libyan people rose up" to fight the rebels who arrived in Tripoli, he said, referring to battles in the capital between Gaddafi loyalists and rebel forces.
"The West has high-tech technology which disrupted telecommunications systems and sent messages to the people," declaring the fall of the regime, he said about text phone messages sent Sunday to the residents of Tripoli.
"This is a technological and media war to cause chaos and terror in Libya," he added, dressed in a Khaki shirt.
Seif al-Islam, who arrived for the meeting in an armoured 4x4, claimed the rebels had suffered "heavy casualties" Monday when they stormed Gaddafi’s compound.
"I am here to refute the lies," he said about reports of his arrest.
Meanwhile, Mohammed Gaddafi, the strongman's eldest son who also had been reported arrested, had escaped, the Libyan ambassador to Washington told CNN.
Ali Suleiman Aujali with the Libyan rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) told CNN that Mohammed was apparently taken by "maybe Gaddafi’s forces." A senior rebel source confirmed the escape to AFP, saying "Yes, it's true, he has escaped." The source in the rebel capital of Benghazi, eastern Libya, spoke on condition of anonymity.
But the Libyan leader's whereabouts remained unknown, as the capital plunged into darkness after electricity supplies were turned off everywhere but his compound, and gunfire crackled around the Mediterranean port city.
He broadcast three defiant audio messages on Sunday, vowing he would not surrender and urging the people of Tripoli to "purge the capital," even as rebel forces swept through the capital and took over waterfront Green Square.
"The Gaddafi era is over," rebel chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil told a news conference in the eastern rebel capital of Benghazi after his forces stormed the capital, more than six months after the fighting began.
He said he hoped the dictator would be "captured alive so that he will be given a fair trial."
He had also declared that Saif al-Islam had been arrested.
Despite those reports, Saif al-Islam arrived for the meeting with journalists in a vehicle in front of his father's building complex, which was bombed by the Americans in 1986.
As the journalists arrived for the meeting several dozen regime supporters, thinking Gaddafi’s son had come, began chanting slogans and waving the Libyan flag.
"Allah, Moamer, Libya and that's it," they chanted, brandishing pictures of the Saif al-Islam and his father, before peering into the vehicle and finding journalists, but still not moving away from the car.
Some loyalists attached a green Libyan flag behind the chair where Saif al-Islam was to sit. On a coffee table, they placed a small Libyan flag, a Koran and a copy of Gaddafi’s Green Book, the 1975 text in which he laid out his philosophy.
Moreno-Ocampo had said Saif al-Islam was arrested and in detention, calling for his swift transfer.
"We hope he can soon be in The Hague" to face judgement, Moreno-Ocampo said as he indicated he was planning to contact the "Libyan transitional government" later in the day.
An ICC spokesperson said on Monday that the court is seeking Saif al-Islam's transfer to The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity.
Saif al-Islam is accused together with his father with orchestrating a plan to put down the Libyan revolt by "any means necessary" since it was sparked in mid-February.
This included the murder of hundreds of pro-freedom Libyan protestors and injuring hundreds of others when security forces shot a crowds using live ammunition, as well as the arrest and torture of numerous others.
Before the revolt erupted, Saif al-Islam was increasingly seen as a successor to his father, despite publicly ruling out any dynastic ambitions in the North African country.
Described as the Libyan strongman's de facto prime minister and most influential person within his inner circle, Saif al-Islam is wanted because he "espoused and executed Muammar Gaddafi’s plan which led to the commission of the crimes", a court document stated.