The last possible rally figure in Libya for the deposed regime of Moammar Qaddafi has now fallen into the hands of the new Libyan government. Security forces captured Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the oldest son of the now-deceased dictator, after a firefight that ended more than two weeks of pursuit across the Libyan desert:
Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of slain Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, has been captured in a firefight in the Libyan desert, senior Libyan military commanders said Saturday.
Saif al-Islam was caught by revolutionary fighters after 15 days of pursuit in the area between the southwestern oasis town of Obari and southern town of Sabha, military commanders in Tripoli told CNN.
The 39-year-old, one of the most-wanted elements of the former regime, has now been taken to the city of Zintan in the Western mountains, Zintan fighter Hassan al-Jwaili told CNN.
Saif al-Islam Gadhafi had been on the run since shortly after the fall of his father’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in the capital in August.
This sets up a potential headache for the new government in Tripoli. The militia that captured him wants him tried in Libya. However, as ABC reports, the International Criminal Court wants to try him as well and has been negotiating for just this eventuality:
The International Criminal Court has charged Seif al-Islam and former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi with crimes against humanity for the brutal crackdown on dissent as the uprising against the regime began in mid-February and escalated into a civil war. Gadhafi also had been charged.
The ICC has said it was in indirect negotiations with Seif al-Islam about his possible surrender for trial.
Saif al-Islam Qaddafi has to hope they succeed. Any trial in Libya would mean death for the son of the brutal Moammar Qaddafi, while the ICC’s worst would be life imprisonment. Since the dictator himself can’t be the focus of Libyan revenge, the wages for the decades of oppression will end up getting paid by Saif instead. He certainly understood that much, which is why he high-tailed it across the desert in an unsuccessful effort to get across the border before the security forces caught up with him. Saif’s younger brother Saif al-Saadi managed to get across the border earlier in the conflict and now has asylum (for now) in Niger, where Saif al-Islam was attempting to join him.
The ICC and Saif al-Islam are almost certainly doomed to disappointment. The strange-bedfellows mix of rebels and their militias in Tripoli need a rallying point themselves to unite their movement and establish firm control over a fractured nation. A trial for Qaddafi’s son presents an irresistible opportunity for the new government to boost their standing and give the Libyan people a chance to unite in their common hatred for the old regime. Don’t expect them to pass it up.