Mohamed Niss

Mohamed Niss

Still on the Loose: Libya’s Most Dangerous Jihadists - Part II
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

More violence?

Tripoli Braces for Hurricane Igtet
More violence?
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi

Come up, ye horses; and rage, ye chariots; and let the mighty men come forth; the Ethiopians and the Libyans, that handle the shield; and the Lydians, that handle and bend the bow (Jeremiah 46:9)

 Saif al-Islam, who was once seen as heir apparent to his father Muammar Gaddafi, is about to launch a major offensive to recapture Libya’s capital city, The Libya Times can reveal.

 Saif, 44, who was freed in June of this year after six years in captivity, has been recruiting fighters and gathering weapons in camps across Wearshafana to take on the Tripoli militias, a source familiar with the plan who wished to remain anonymous has told this website.

 He will not be relying just on military force, but is also bargaining on disillusionment with the current rival governments which he believes - if coupled with a statement declaring his return - would win him supporters capable of opening the capital’s gates for him without a fight. A bloodless coup just as his father had done in 1969.  

 “Recruits from across the country flocked to his camps driven by tribal loyalty, nostalgia for the old regime, or money. He is even using Sub-Saharan mercenaries,” said the source. “Saif himself seems to be driven by vengeance for his father and a need to redeem himself as a strong leader,” he added. It’s commonly known in Libya that Gaddafi senior’s close aides, also known as the old guard, have blamed the former regime’s demise on Saif’s political reforms­ ­­— particularly his deal with the Muslim Brotherhood and the decision to free detained members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.

One wonders, however, whether Mr Gadddafi actually need military force in order to regain power in Tripoli. For many now believe that he could easily win any future elections, not only because most Libyans grew disillusioned with politicians of ‘the new Libya’, blamed for the chaos that ensued Gaddafi’s overthrow, but also for the fact that Libya’s largest tribes are labelled as former regime supporters who represent the country’s biggest electoral force.

“You would be right in assuming that many Libyans would vote for him, but Saif knows that it’s not that simple. He knows full well that the Western powers, who now control Libya’s political fate, would not allow his return after all what they have gone through to install a friendly government in Tripoli,” replied the source. “How could they justify to the public in their countries all the bloodshed and chaos that ensued Gaddafi’s overthrow if it was that simple for the old regime to return?” he argued.  

A painting by Saif titled, “Defiance/the Challenge” depicting his father looking down on crusaders and a falcon shielding his father symbolizing the Libyan Armed Forces.

In effect this means that Saif has been left with no other option but to resort to force. For despite being released based on an amnesty law by Libya’s House of Representatives, he is still wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his alleged involvement in war crimes committed during the 2011 war. The court claims that it has evidence linking him directly to crimes committed by Gaddafi troops in several cities and he is likely to get arrested as soon as he steps outside Libya. A report (1) published this week in the Emirati daily Al-Bayan mentioned efforts by unnamed regional and international players aimed at convincing the United Nations Security Council to drop the ICC case against Mr Gaddafi. Yet such effort is not likely to succeed as those behind it - probably Russia and the U.A.E – have little clout compared to the rest of the international players in Libya.

Can he succeed?

Everything is possible in the post-Arab-Spring Libya: Who could have ever predicted that Sirte would become the Islamic State’s capital in North Africa? Or that Tripoli’s International Airport would be levelled to the ground with its entire aircraft fleet without any legal actions against the perpetrators. Of course, it’s possible that Gaddafi’s son regains power in Libya by military means. Possible, yet unlikely.

“He has surrounded himself with young and unexperienced aides operating under his newly established People’s Front for the Liberation of Libya and he alienated or failed to win the support of the old guard, most of whom are now operating under the People’s Libyan National Movement or joined the ranks of Hifter’s Libyan National Army,” explained the source.  “How could one expect him to convince the wider Libyan public if he can’t even gain the trust of his closest allies,” he added.

What could possibly go wrong?

A whole lot of things, not least of which is that Tripoli falls to Islamist militias who would inevitably return to the capital under the pretext of defending it against “counter-revolution forces”. Islamist militias from Zawya were said to be already mobilizing tanks and forces to the city’s outskirts. Their fellow Islamists in Gharyan, Tarhouna, Amsallata and Misrata will follow suit as soon as Mr Gaddafi makes his big move.

DISCLAIMER: The quotes and views cited in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Libya Times.

  (1) مصادر لـ « البيان »: مساعٍ لإلغاء ملاحقة سيف الاسلام القذافي من قبل الجنائية الدولية, Al-Bayan, 24 October 2017.