Muammar Qaddafi’s son al-Saadi denied allegations of corruption and intimidation and called Interpol’s decision to put him on the equivalent of its most-wanted list “political,” according to an email, as more deaths were reported among patients in the besieged city of Sirte’s hospital because of fuel shortages.
Al-Saadi Qaddafi is under house arrest in Libyan neighbor Niger, where he fled after Tripoli fell to revolutionary forces. His father and two of his brothers are in hiding, presumably inside Libya, as fighting between revolutionary forces and Qaddafi loyalists continues on three fronts.
Al-Saadi “regrets the issue of a red notice by Interpol and strenuously denies the charges made against him,” an email forwarded late Sunday to The Associated Press said.
Interpol issued a red notice for al-Saadi last week based on accusations he misappropriated property and engaged in “armed intimidation” when he headed the Libyan Football Federation. He also was a special forces commander and is the subject of U.N. sanctions for commanding military units involved in repression of demonstrations.
The international police agency said the notice was issued in response to a request by the Libya’s National Transitional Council, which has assumed leadership of the North African nation. Niger, which borders Libya on the south and long benefited from Qaddafi’s largesse, has said it would study the question.
“Clear political decision”
In the email, al-Saadi called the Interpol notice a “clear political decision to recognize the de jure authority of the National Transitional Council taken without appropriate regard to the current absence of a functioning, effective and fair system of justice in Libya.”
It said al-Saadi “worked tirelessly to promote football in Libya, priding himself on the fact that Libya was formerly selected to host the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.” It added that Qaddafi’s son “continues to call on all sides to seek a negotiated and peaceful resolution to the present conflict.”
The South African Football Association has signed an agreement with Libya’s post-Qaddafi football federation to host the 2013 African Cup of Nations, while Libya will stage the 2017 games.
The email was relayed to the AP on Sunday by defense attorney Nick Kaufman, who has been involved in a number of international criminal cases. Kaufman said he was contacted by an intermediary he identified as al-Saadi’s press secretary, Jackie Frazier.
Al-Saadi fled to Niger in mid-September along with several other regime loyalists, including some generals.
Interpol red notices
Interpol also has issued red notices for Muammar Qaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam upon request by the Hague-based International Criminal Court. Both men have been charged with crimes against humanity.
Interpol had urged authorities in Niger and surrounding countries - and those with direct flights to Niger - to watch out for and arrest Qaddafi “with a view to returning him to Libya” for prosecution.
Interpol’s red notices are the highest-level alerts they can issue to their member countries. The notices do not force countries to turn over suspects but strongly urge them to, and countries who ignore such notices can come under pressure from the international community.
Qaddafi’s eight adult children have played influential roles in Libya, from commanding an elite military unit to controlling the oil sector. Al-Saadi, 38, headed the Libyan Football Federation, and at one point played in Italy's professional league but spent most of his time on the bench.
Another Qaddafi son is with his daughter Aisha and wife in neighboring Algeria - along with other family members - while Khamis Qaddafi, who led the Khamis Brigade that fought in the west, was reportedly killed in battle, although that was never confirmed.
Libya’s new rulers have gained control of most of the country, but revolutionary forces still face fierce resistance in Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, Bani Walid and pockets in the southern desert. NATO recent extended its mission, although the top U.S. commander for Africa said Saturday that the military mission is largely complete.
Army Gen. Carter Ham, head of U.S. Africa Command said that the National Transitional Council and its forces should be in “reasonable control” of population centers before the end of the NATO mission, dubbed Unified Protector. And he said they are close to that now.
Medical workers fleeing the besieged city of Sirte told Reuters on Sunday that people wounded in fighting in the city were dying on the operating table because fuel for the hospital generator has run out.
The birthplace of Qaddafi is one of two towns still holding out against the country’s new rulers. The fighting has entered its third week and civilians are caught up in a worsening humanitarian crisis.
The interim government, the National Transitional Council (NTC), declared a two-day truce to allow civilians to escape, but people emerging from the city said they knew nothing of the ceasefire, and that the shooting had not stopped.
“Doctors start operating, then the power goes. They have a few liters of fuel for the generators, then the lights go out when they operate,” said a man who gave his name as al-Sadiq, who said he ran the dialysis unit at Sirte’s main hospital.
“I saw a child of 14 die on the operating table because the power went out during the operation,” he told Reuters on the western outskirts of the city.
Aid workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) who brought medical supplies into Sirte on Saturday could not reach the hospital because of shooting.
That hospital has now become the focus of concerns about the humanitarian crisis in the city.
“It’s a catastrophe. Patients are dying every day for need of oxygen,” said Mohammed Shnaq, a biochemist at the hospital who fled early on Sunday during a lull in the shooting.
He said private pharmacies in Sirte had handed over their supplies to the hospital after its own stocks ran out a week ago, but these were now running out too.
The ICRC said that it planned to go back into Sirte and hoped to reach the hospital, security permitting.
“We want to deliver oxygen, which is lacking at the hospital,” ICRC spokesman Marcal Izard told Reuters in Geneva.
“But it has to be done carefully, oxygen is very delicate. A stray bullet would be a disaster.”
NATO warplanes were more in evidence than in previous days, with aircraft flying unusually low over the city. In one 10-minute period there was a steady rumble from bombs dropping on an area south of the city, a Reuters reporter said.
Qaddafi’s supporters are too weak to regain power, but their resistance is frustrating the new rulers’ efforts to start building the post-Qaddafi Libya.
While it needs to stamp out the last resistance swiftly, the NTC does not want to use indiscriminate shelling, which could hurt its standing and make it even harder to govern Libya's fractious tribes and regions.
Qaddafi loyalists and some civilians have blamed NATO air strikes and shelling by anti-Qaddafi forces for the deaths of civilians in Sirte.
Both NATO and the NTC deny that and say it is the Qaddafi loyalists who are endangering civilians by using them as human shields.
The focus on the battle for the last pro-Qaddafi strongholds -- and on tracking down Qaddafi himself -- has left a power vacuum in Tripoli.
With no process in motion for electing a new leadership, power on the ground is wielded by anti-Qaddafi militias who are jockeying with each other for influence in the new Libya. Some analysts warn that this rivalry could turn violent.