Saif al-Islam Qaddafi bargaining chip in power struggle by rival militias?

Saif al-Islam Qaddafi was captured Nov. 18 in Libya’s southern desert near the city of Sabha—reportedly in an attempt to escape to neighboring Niger. Libyan state TV reported that Saif al-Islam arrived uninjured at a base in the town of Zintan, 90 miles southwest of Tripoli, after being captured by Zintan fighters, part of a regional militia that recognizes the National Transitional Council (NTC). Saif al-Islam is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, but many in Libya want him tried locally. The militia fighters have stated that it is up to the NTC to decide where Saif al-Islam will be tried, but that until the new Libyan government is formed they will hold him at Zintan. ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he will travel to Libya to discuss Saif al-Islam’s fate. (Jurist, Nov. 19)

Interim leader Mustapha Abdul-Jalil said last week that the NTC intends to disarm the the regional militias still roaming the country and skirmishing with each other, but that first the government needs to be able to offer alternatives—jobs, education, and training. Meanwhile, many fighters say they will refuse to give up their weapons until rival militias do so. The Jadu Brigade, now ensconced in Tripoli’s luxurious Rigatta compound, is waiting for the Zintan militia to disarm first. Jadu leader Omar Dougha said, “we can’t disarm unless Zintan does the same.” Jadu is a Berber town and Zintan is Arab; three generations ago, Zintan fighters chased Jadu Berbers from their lands in the Nafusa Mountains, and Jadu fighters recovered some of it in the recent war. The area is now contested between the two groups. “We fought as brothers against Qaddafi, but we don’t entirely trust them,” said Dougha. “Zintan with heavy weapons and Jadu without weapons is simply not an option.”

There have recently been clashes in Tripoli between fighters from the coastal city of Misrata. Militamen from Misrata have also declared that the displaced inhabitants of Tawargha, a mostly Black African neighboring city where many residents stayed loyal to Qaddafi, will not be allowed to return. Fighters from Misrata have chased the residents of Tawargha all over Libya—arresting them in refugee camps and bringing them back to Misrata jails. Last week, Misrata militiamen began burning houses in Tawargha to make sure that nobody returns. (CSM, Nov. 14)

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  1. Zintan fighters grab Abdullah al-Senussi
    A spokesman for the NTC said Nov. 20 that local officials in the desert town of Sabha have confirmed the capture of the Qadhafi regime’s intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi. Fighters from Zintan, in coordination with local Sabha fighters, apparently captured Senussi, and it is not clear where they were keeping him. (Reuters, AlArabiya, Nov. 20)

  2. ICC prosecutor in Libya to discuss trials
    International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo arrived in Libya Nov 22 to discuss plans for the trials of recently arrested Saif al-Islam Qaddafi and Abdullah al-Senussi for crimes against humanity. Ocampo will meet with Libyan officials to find out what their national plan for trials and proceedings are, as well as discuss where the two men will be tried for international crimes. Ocampo said:

    Saif al-Islam Qaddafi and Abdullah al-Senussi must face justice… Their arrest is a crucial step in bringing to justice those most responsible for crimes committed in Libya. This is not a military or political issue, it is a legal requirement.

    Ocampo also said that it will ultimately be up to ICC judges to decide where the trials will be held. (Jurist, Nov. 22)