Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the former Libyan dictator, is seeking to make a comeback after years in detention, and claims to be leading a military campaign against terrorist groups around Tripoli.
Gaddafi was freed in June after six years as the prisoner of a militia in the town of Zintan following the Nato-supported uprising in 2011 that led to the killing of his father, Muammar Gaddafi, and the fragmentation of the country.
Saif Gaddafi was once the heir apparent of the Libyan regime, a London School of Economics graduate touted as a moderniser who mixed with British high society. Now, he stands accused of ordering the killing of protesters as the Gaddafis fought desperately to hold on to power.
“Saif al-Islam is inside Libya and is committed to his word, which he gave to all Libyans in 2011, when he said that he will remain in Libya to defend its territory or die a martyr for it,” a spokesman for Gaddafi said in a written statement, supplied through the US contact who had extensive dealings with him before the fall of his family’s regime.
“The forces who fought in Sabratha against Isis, the gangs of illegal immigrants and the oil-smuggling mafias were mainly members of the tribes who support Saif al-Islam, and those who were part of the former Libyan army, also loyal to Saif Gaddafi.”
It is unclear, however, to what extent Gaddafi is claiming credit for military operations carried out by others. Much of the recent fighting has been between tribal militias vying for control of smuggling routes. Observers said they doubted the dictator’s son would be able to muster sufficient loyalists to pose a serious threat to the capital.