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Rebels: Gadhafi's son Saif al-Islam captured alive

Slain dictator Moammar Gadhafi's son and heir-apparent Saif al-Islam has been captured alive and uninjured, rebel sources told NBC News on Saturday.
Image: Saif al-Islam Gadhafi
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of slain Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.Mast Irham / EPA file
/ Source: NBC News and news services

Slain dictator Moammar Gadhafi's influential son and heir-apparent, Saif al-Islam, has been captured alive and uninjured, rebel sources told NBC News on Saturday.

Saif al-Islam and Moussa Ibrahim, the former spokesman for the Gadhafi's regime, were both captured in the Libyan city of Nessma, near Bani Walid, and were currently being transported to Misrata, rebel forces told NBC News.

The collaring of Gadhafi's fugitive son and spokesman could not be immediately verified. Rebel forces have been incorrect in the past with their reporting of the conditions and whereabouts of Gadhafi's loyalists.

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, whose name means "Sword of Islam," was the most elusive of the late Libyan leader's eight offspring. He was wanted on war crimes charges but evaded a manhunt for months to remain the only leading family member still at large.

Rebels credited the Osoud el Wadi brigade, which translates as "Lions of the Valley," with the latest roundup of Gadhafi arrests.

Meantime, Gadhafi's body remained in Misrata, bearing wounds assumed to have been inflicted by fighters from the city who hauled him from a drain in his hometown Sirte.

Gadhafi's family and international human rights groups have urged an inquiry into how Gadhafi, 69, was killed, since gory cellphone video footage showed him alive but being beaten and taunted by his captors.

Rebel son
Controversy has surrounded the fate of Saif al-Islam, the most enigmatic of Gadhafi's children. He apparently turned within weeks from philanthropist and liberal reformer into a fighter ready to die on his home soil rather than surrender.

A senior official of the National Transitional Council said on Friday that it was suspected that Saif al-Islam had fled south from the last Gadhafi stronghold of Sirte towards Libya's border with Niger, where another son has already taken refuge.

Educated at the London School of Economics and a fluent English speaker, Saif al-Islam was once seen by many governments as the acceptable, Western-friendly face of Libya.

But when a rebellion broke out in February against his father's 42-year rule, Saif al-Islam immediately chose family and clan loyalties over his many friendships in the West.

"We fight here in Libya; we die here in Libya," he told Reuters TV in an interview early in the rebellion.

Three of Gadhafi's sons have died on their home soil during the civil war. Gadhafi's four other children — three sons and a daughter — are scattered in exile in neighboring Algeria and Niger.

Stymied efforts
Before the rebellion Saif al-Islam sometimes appeared genuinely at odds with Gadhafi senior, who ruled for 42 years through fear and violence.

Mainly through his charitable Gadhafi Foundation, Saif al-Islam pushed for reform, including more media freedom, acknowledgement of past rights abuses and the adoption of a constitution. He also oversaw a reconciliation with Islamist rebels who launched an insurgency in the 1990s.

But his efforts were stymied by opposition from inside the ruling elite and — some analysts say — from members of his own family. Last year the independent newspaper he helped to found was forced to mute its criticism of the authorities and his foundation withdrew from political activities.

One of his projects did succeed. He played a central role in negotiating the lifting of U.S. and European sanctions on Libya in 2004, in return for Tripoli ending its nuclear and chemical weapons programs.

This led to then British Prime Minister Tony Blair visiting Tripoli to embrace Gadhafi senior, long a pariah in the West.

Saif al-Islam owned a $16 million home in London, but his activities and friendships caused much embarrassment in the West when the rebellion broke out.

NBC News, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.