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Seif al-Islam, the son of ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, has been arrested, sources in the country's interim government have confirmed. Gadhafi's one-time successor was wanted by the International Criminal Court.
Seif al-Islam is likely to face trial in Libya
Moammar Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam has been arrested in southern Libya almost one month after his disappearance, the country's interim justice minister confirmed on Saturday. He was the last top figure of the Gadhafi regime to have evaded capture or not to have escaped abroad.
Sources in Libya's ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) claimed Gadhafi's one-time successor was captured late Friday while attempting to flee the country to neighboring Niger.
"He was arrested along with two aides in the region of Al Obari in southern Libya," NTC military commander Bashir al-Tuleib told a press conference in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
Fighters from Zintan said they stopped Seif al-Islam's convoy as it headed through the desert, and detained him without a fight. He was said to be afraid, and nursing a hand wound sustained in a NATO air strike one month ago.
Libyans celebrated the arrest in Tripoli
Crowd surrounds plane
The fighters flew him back across the country to their home town, where the plane carrying him was surrounded by hundreds of people, trapping those on board for more than an hour. Seif al-Islam was bundled through the crowd, and taken away by car.
Libya's interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib promised Gadhafi's son would face a fair trial and called his capture the "crowning" of the uprising.
"We assure Libyans and the world that Seif al-Islam will receive a fair trial ... under fair legal processes which our own people had been deprived of for the last 40 years," el-Keib told a press conference in Zintan.
The Zintan fighters - who make up one of Libya's strongest militia factions - said they would hand over their high-profile captive when an effective government was in place in Tripoli. With el-Keib due to announce a cabinet on Tuesday, commentators have speculated that the Western Mountain-based group aims to use Saif al-Islam's capture as leverage to secure more influence within government.
ICC wants 'justice'
The capture was quickly verified by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC had issued an arrest warrant for Seif al-Islam for crimes against humanity during the ousted regime's violent crackdown on Libyan protesters earlier this year.
ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has said he will go to Libya next week to discuss how and where Seif al-Islam will be prosecuted.
Moreno-Ocampo told reporters in The Hague that "Seif will get justice," adding that he wanted him to have a fair trial and to be tried for the same charges he faces at the ICC.
International human rights groups have called for Seif al-Islam to be transferred to The Hague out of concern for his safety after his father died at the hands of opposition forces last month. However, a member of Libya's ruling NTC has said it wants him to be tried in Libya.
The Zintan fighters are among the most powerful fighting groups in Libya
Mohamed al-Alaqi, who holds the justice portfolio, told Libyan media that there were "all guarantees of a fair and impartial trial for him." He said the issue would be discussed during Moreno-Ocampo's visit.
Libya wants to try Seif al-Islam for previous alleged crimes in addition to those cited by the ICC.
Seif al-Islam, Gadhafi's second son, had been on the run since October 20, when his father was captured and killed in his hometown, Sirte. News of his arrest was greeted in Tripoli by shots fired into the air in celebration and citizens honking car horns.
Seif al-Islam, who received a doctorate from the London School of Economics, held no official post in the Gadhafi regime but had long been considered a liberalizing reformer. His reputation for drawing Western favor vanished, however, after he fiercely backed his father's brutal crackdown on rebel forces earlier this year.
Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill, Timothy Jones, Richard Connor (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Martin Kuebler