Muammar Qaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam who rebels said they had captured appeared with dozens of cheering supporters in Tripoli on Tuesday saying the capital was “under control” of his father’s regime.
Seif al-Islam, wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, met with foreign journalists, after ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and the Libyan National Transitional Council chief Mustafa Abdel Jalilrebel said rebel forces had arrested him.
He visited the Tripoli hotel where foreign journalists are staying to declare that the government was winning the battle against the rebels.
On Tuesday, the ICC said it “never” had confirmation of the arrest of Seif al-Islam, a spokesman told AFP.
“After yesterday’s announcement, we communicated with the National Transitional Council to have confirmation of the arrest, but we never received it from the NTC,” the ICC’s spokesman Fadi el-Abdallah said-- after Seif spoke to journalists to refute the “lies” about his capture.
The chairman of the NTC Mustafa Abdel Jalil told Al-Jazeera television overnight he had “information that Seif has been captured.”
“He is being kept in a secure place under close guard until he is handed over to the judiciary,” Abdel Jalil said, without giving a date or place for his reported capture.
The ICC prosecutor in the Hague Luis Moreno-Ocampo told AFP later “I have received confidential information stating he has been arrested.”
But in a dramatic twist, Seif appeared in public and took the journalists to his father’s Bab al-Aziziyah stronghold. Television footage showed Saif pumping his fists in the air, smiling, waving and shaking hands with supporters, as well as holding his arms aloft with each hand making the V for victory sign.
“We broke the back of the rebels. It was a trap. We gave them a hard time, so we are winning,” Saif said.
“Tripoli is under our control. Everyone should rest assured. All is well in Tripoli,” the defiant son of the Libyan strongman told the three journalists at a vacant lot outside his father’s Bab al-Azizya compound in Tripoli in the very early hours of Tuesday.
“You have seen how the Libyan people rose up” to fight the rebels who arrived in Tripoli, he said, referring to battles in the capital between Qaddafi loyalists and rebel forces.
“The West has high-tech technology which disrupted telecommunications systems and sent messages to the people,” declaring the fall of the regime, he said about text phone messages sent Sunday to the residents of Tripoli.
“This is a technological and media war to cause chaos and terror in Libya,” he added, dressed in a Khaki shirt.
“I am here to refute the lies,” Qaddafi’s son said, referring to reports of his arrest.
Seif al-Islam arrived in a vehicle in front of the building complex, which was bombed by the Americans in 1986.
He was greeted by several dozen supporters waving his portrait and that of his father, as well as Libyan flags.
Moreno-Ocampo had said Seif al-Islam was arrested and in detention, calling for his swift transfer.
“We hope he can soon be in The Hague” to face judgment, Moreno-Ocampo said as he indicated he was planning to contact the “Libyan transitional government” later in the day.
An ICC spokesman said Monday that the court is seeking Seif al-Islam’s transfer to The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity.
“The court as a whole is involved,” Fadi El-Abdallah told AFP, answering ‘yes’ when asked if that meant discussions were underway with the Libyan rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) over Seif al-Islam’s transfer.
Seif al-Islam is accused together with his father with orchestrating a plan to put down the Libyan revolt by “any means necessary” since it was sparked in mid-February.
Western powers are concerned that tribal, ethnic and political divisions among the diverse armed groups opposed to Gaddafi could lead to the kind of blood-letting seen in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
In a move that could ease tensions, a rebel official in the eastern city of Benghazi said, however, that efforts were under way to make contact with authorities hitherto loyal to Qaddafi.
Foreign governments which had hesitated to take sides, among them Qaddafi’s Arab neighbors, Russia and China also made clear his four decades of absolute power were over.
A US State Department spokeswoman said Libyans who said they represented Gaddafi were making “more desperate” efforts to negotiate with the United States in the last 24 to 48 hours.
Washington did not take any of them seriously because they did not indicate Qaddafi’s willingness to step down, she added.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who took an early gamble on the rebels and may now reap diplomatic benefits, called on the Gaddafi loyalists “to turn their back on the criminal and cynical blindness of their leader by immediately ceasing fire.”
Late on Monday, Sarkozy spoke to Britain’s David Cameron by telephone about the Libya situation, according to a press release from the French presidential palace.
“They both agreed to pursue efforts in supporting the legitimate Libyan authorities as long as Colonel Qaddafi refuses to surrender arms,” the statement read. Paris has offered to host a summit on Libya soon.