Libya: What became of Muammar Qaddafi's family?

Many of the former Libyan leader's seven children survived the revolution a decade ago and at least one is considering a political comeback

epa02973577 (FILE) A file picture dated 19 February 2005 shows former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during a meeting with then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at Itehadeya Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt. According to media reports on 20 October 2011, Gaddafi was captured close Sirte, Libya.  EPA/KHALED EL-FIQI *** Local Caption ***  02973577.jpg

Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi was ousted and killed in the 2011 uprising, but several of his family members survived. Nearly a decade on from the dictator's gruesome slaying, The National takes a look at what has happened to them.

On Sunday, Qaddafi’s third son, Saadi, was released from a prison in Tripoli, three years after he was acquitted over the murder of a football coach while still accused of shooting protesters during the revolution.

Three of the former ruler's other seven sons died in the uprising, including Mutassim, who was killed by rebels in the dictator's home town of Sirte on October 20, 2011, the same day as his father.

Another son, Seif Al Arab, perished in a Nato air raid in April 2011, and his brother Khamis died in combat four months later, at the height of the revolt.

But other members of the Qaddafi clan survived, including his wife Safiya, his eldest son Mohammed - from his first marriage - and his daughter Aisha, who live in exile.

In July, the dictator's erstwhile heir apparent Seif Al Islam Qaddafi, who is wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC), emerged from years in the shadows.

He told the New York Times he was planning a political comeback, and did not rule out running in general elections expected in December.

After the fall of Tripoli to rebels in August 2011, Safiya, Mohammed and Aisha escaped to neighbouring Algeria.

They were later granted refuge in Oman on condition they do not carry out political activities, the country's then foreign minister Mohammed Abdelaziz told AFP in 2013.

Aisha, a lawyer by profession and a former UN goodwill ambassador, had been part of an international defence team for Saddam Hussein after the Iraqi leader was ousted in the 2003 US-led invasion.

High-rolling son Hannibal also sought refuge in Algeria after the uprising, before trying to sneak into Lebanon to join his wife, Lebanese model Aline Skaf. But Lebanese authorities arrested and charged him in 2015 with withholding information about prominent Muslim Shiite cleric Mussa Sadr, who went missing in 1978 during a visit to Libya.

Hannibal and his wife sparked a diplomatic incident with Switzerland in 2008 when they were arrested in a Geneva hotel for assaulting two former domestic employees.

Playboy son Saadi Qaddafi - once a professional footballer in Italy - fled to Niger after the uprising, but was later extradited to Libya, where he was wanted for the 2005 killing of Libyan football coach Bashir Al Rayani and repression during the revolt.

In April 2018, the court of appeal acquitted him of Rayani's murder, and he was freed from jail on Sunday, according to a justice ministry source and another source at the prosecutor’s office.

Several media reports on Sunday suggested Saadi Qaddafi had already taken a flight to Turkey.

Seif Al Islam, whose name means “sword of Islam”, was captured by a Libyan militia from Zintan in November 2011, days after his father was killed.

In June 2014, he appeared via video from Zintan, western Libya, during his trial by a Tripoli court.

In 2015, he was sentenced to death in absentia for crimes committed during the revolt.

The armed group which captured him announced in 2017 that he had been released.

But he remained out of the public eye until the New York Times interviewed him in Zintan in July 2021, when he said he was no longer a prisoner and was planning a political return.

“The men who used to be my guards are now my friends,” he said, deploring Libya's descent into chaos in the decade since his father's overthrow and killing.

During his glory days, Muammar Qaddafi considered himself the “Leader of the Revolution” and declared Libya a “Jamahiriya”, or “state of the masses” run by local committees.

Thousands of his supporters, including from his own Qaddafi tribe, fled Libya during and after the regime's fall, with many settling in Egypt and Tunisia.

The clan also included members of Qaddafi’s revolutionary guard - a paramilitary force tasked with protecting the regime against its detractors — who were not necessarily blood relatives.

Updated: September 6th 2021, 1:08 PM
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