Before there was civil war in Libya, there was civil war within the family that ruled Libya. As a 2009 State Department cable released by WikiLeaks put it, "internecine strife is nothing new in the famously fractious al-Gadhafi clan." During his 42-year reign, Moammar Gadhafi sired eight children by two wives, and not many of them seem to like each other. Were they not fighting for their lives, they'd be fighting each other for the right to succeed their dad. The following is a guide to the almost-ex dictator's many offspring, including the not-so-good, the bad and the possibly imaginary.
The eldest of Gadhafi's seven sons, born in 1970, Muhammad was not considered a likely successor to his father. One of his most public roles was heading the Libyan Olympic Committee. On Sunday, August 21, Libyan rebels captured him in Tripoli. He confirmed his surrender in an emotional interview with the Arab news service al Jazeera. The next day, August 22, he was freed by forces loyal to his father. Ali Suleiman Aujali, ambassador to the U.S. for the Libyan rebels, confirmed to ABC News that Muhammad Gadhafi had escaped.
|Saif al-Islam Gadhafi|
Gadhafi's second-oldest son, who turned 39 in June, was a very public figure in Libya prior to the revolution. He has engineering degrees from Libyan and European universities, as well as a Ph.D from the London School of Economics. He also considers himself an artist; the national art gallery displays many of his works.
Though he made a public statement in 2008 disavowing any interest in Libyan government, he was involved in arms control negotiations on behalf of the regime and negotiations with the Italian government on compensation for the Italian occupation. A 2009 U.S. State Department cable released by WikiLeaks describes Saif as the "heir apparent," and says he is "arrayed against" his siblings "Muatassim, Aisha, Hannibal, Saadi and perhaps even his own mother." It also calls him a hard-partying womanizer.
On Monday, August 22, the National Transitional Council, which represents Libyan rebels, said it had captured Saif al-Islam. Later the same day, he reemerged with loyalist troops and said the tide of battle had turned in his father's favor. "We have broken the backbone of the rebels," he told the BBC. "We gave them a hard time, so we are winning." He was carried on the shoulders of government soldiers and rode a tank near a hotel where foreign journalists are housed.
On Tuesday, the leader of the NTC, Mahmoud Jibril, claimed that Saif had never been in custody, but that reports of his "arrest" had led to the surrender of many Libyan army colonels along with their forces to the rebels as well as the recognition of the NTC by 8 countries.
Saif al-Islam has been charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity, including murder, for his alleged role in the violent crackdown against civilians during the uprising.
|Al Saadi Gadhafi|
Saadi, 38, is one of the three Gadhafi sons, along with Saif al-Arab and Hannibal, described as "ne'er-do-wells" in a 2009 U.S. State Department cable released by WikiLeaks. "Hannibal and Saadi both have checkered histories of unseemly behavior and public scuffles with authorities in Europe and elsewhere." Saadi may be acting out because of his failed soccer career. While he played in Libya with two different Tripoli teams between 2000 and 2003, scoring 23 goals, he was never able to make his mark in the far-more competitive Italian football leagues, cycling through three teams between 2004 and 2007 while only appearing in games twice. He failed a drug test at Perugia and played all of ten minutes for Udinese.
As his soccer career evaporated, Saadi tried, and failed, to create a free-trade high-tech city near Zuwara, between Tripoli and the Tunisian border. According to the WikiLeaks cable, he was upset that his dad didn't support his city idea the way he had supported the ventures of his other sons.
Like his brothers Muhammad and Saif al-Islam, Saadi was reportedly captured by rebels on August 21. The rebel Libyan ambassador to Washington, Ali Suleiman Aujali, told ABC News on Wednesday that the rebels never claimed they had Al-Saadi in custody.
A source close to the Gadhafi family said that Saadi is on the run, like other members of the Gadhafi family, and is not in Tripoli, and that Saadi "wants to save his family and save lives in Tripoli."
The ancient general Hannibal, who led the North African empire of Carthage to multiple victories over the Roman army in Italy, is widely considered one of the greatest military commanders of all time. Hannibal Gadhafi has failed to live up to his namesake. A "ne'er-do-well" with a "checkered history," the some-time maritime shipping executive is best known for tawdry scrapes with the law in Europe.
In 2005, he received a suspended sentence in France for beating up his pregnant girlfriend. He was arrested in Switzerland in 2008 along with his European-born wife Aline on charges of bodily harm against hotel staffers, but the charges were dropped. The same year, he sued a Danish newspaper that alleged he had arranged for the kidnapping and beating of a Libyan National in Denmark. He lost the case. According to a State Department cable released by WikiLeaks, Hannibal's father was fed a sanitized version of his son's Swiss arrest.
|Saif al-Arab Gadhafi|
The Libyan regime says that Saif al-Arab, the sixth son of Moamar Gadhafi, is dead, killed in an April NATO airstrike. Libyan rebels, and some Western observers, are not so sure, even though the Gadhafi government staged a grand public funeral for him. They believe he's hiding in a third country, perhaps Germany, where he had lived a sometimes violent party boy lifestyle for the previous five years.
Saif al-Arab, born in 1982, survived the first attempt on his life when he was just four years old. A massive U.S. airstrike in April 1986, a retaliation for Libyan complicity in acts of terror against U.S. citizens, allegedly wounded Saif al-Arab and his brother Khamis and killed their adoptive sister Hana, along with 36 others.
In 2006, while a student at a university in Munich, Saif al-Arab was cut on the head during a fight with a bouncer at a nightclub. Charges were dropped, but police later heard that Saif was planning revenge on the bouncer, reportedly an acid attack. When the police investigated, Saif ran to the Libyan embassy for help, seeking diplomatic immunity. The German Foreign Ministry refused to place Saif on its list of diplomats, and he left the country.
He returned to Munich and got in more trouble with the police. He was suspected of smuggling weapons from Munich to Paris using diplomatic license plates. The case was dropped. In 2011, as unrest broke out in Libya, Saif allegedly returned to Tripoli. The government of Bavaria said it had declared him persona non grata. His father reportedly put him in charge of troops in Eastern Libya.
On April 30, a Libyan government spokesman said he had been killed in an airstrike. A shrouded body reputed to be Saif's was shown on Libyan television, and then buried, wrapped in a Green Gadhafi regime flag, at a state funeral attended by 2,000 loyalists, including two of his brothers. The Libyan rebels and the British and Italian governments have all expressed skepticism about Saif's death.
Called the "Claudia Schiffer of North Africa" in the Arab media for her blonde locks and curvy figure, Aisha Gadhafi, the Libyan president's only daughter is, according to insiders, one of the hard-liners of the Gadhafi clan.
When it was reported that the 35-year-old lawyer had attempted to flee to Malta last February, she appeared outside the ruins of the family home that was bombed by U.S. planes in 1986, dressed in a mink coat, and declared, "I am as steadfast as this house I stand in front of and this shows to the Libyans the extent of the lies by the international media."
Described as Gadhafi's favorite child, she vehemently defended his refusal to leave Libya despite the bloodshed, telling French television last June, "There is something you do not understand and you will not understand. My father is a symbol, a guide and a leader."
Though she holds no official political office, she has spoken on behalf of her father on various occasions, most recently announcing to foreign media in June that the Gadhafi regime was negotiating with the "devils," the rebels. She holds the rank of Lieutenant-General in the Libyan army, but has mainly been involved in charitable activities. In 2009 she was named United Nations Development Program Goodwill Ambassador for Libya but her role was terminated by the UN in February following the regime's bloody crackdown on rebels. In February, the UN Security Council imposed a travel ban on her along with 15 other members of Gadhafi's inner circle.
As the fight for control of Tripoli unfolds, Aisha's whereabouts remain unknown. Sunday night, news broke that the rebels had seized her home in the center of Tripoli but Ibrahim al Dabbashi, the defected Deputy Permanent Representative of Libya to the United Nations, told ABC News that the house was not her primary residence. Reports that her husband, a Gadhafi cousin, was died also turned out to be untrue, though her five-month-old daughter may have been killed in a NATO airstrike in April.
Though she has kept a lower profile than her brothers, she doesn't lack the family flair for controversy. In 2000 she caused outrage when she gave a speech in support of the IRA in London. In 2004, she joined the legal defense team of deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, later stating that she felt "duty bound to defend anyone who feels he is wrongly accused."
The lone sister in a family of brothers, she has also apparently been asked to rein in her less accomplished siblings. In 2009 her father assigned her to "monitor the activities" of her "ne'er-do-well" brothers Saadi, Hannibal and Saif al-Arab, according to a 2009 State Department cable released by WikiLeaks. This came on the heels of Hannibal's arrest in Switzerland for assaulting two servants, Saadi's many scuffles with European police and Saif al-Arab's troubles with German police for reported arms smuggling.
Khamis Gadhafi was the one Gadhafi son that, to U.S. officials, appeared to be key to the future of the regime. Head of the elite military unit the Khamis Brigade, Khamis was a well-respected soldier and his unit was charged with protecting the regime at all costs, according to a State Department cable posted on the website WikiLeaks. When popular protests broke out in Libya in February, Khamis was in the midst of a whirlwind tour of the United States organized by an American company with the blessing of the U.S. State Department.
The Khamis Brigade is believed to be engaging the rebels in a fierce final battle in Tripoli. Khamis was twice reported dead earlier this year, but later appearances on Libyan television proved the reports false. His current location is unknown.
Mutassim Gadhafi, the country's national security advisor, came to the attention of Western audiences most recently when State Department cables posted on WikiLeaks revealed he had thrown lavish parties in 2009 and 2010 on a Caribbean island featuring performances by stars like Mariah Carey and Beyonce.
"His carousing and extravagance angered some [Libyan] locals, who viewed his activities as impious and embarrassing to the nation," the cable said.
Still, U.S. officials said Mutassim cultivated a serious rivalry with Saif al-Islam and competed with him for possible succession rights. The cable notes he attempted to use money from a private Libyan company to fund his own paramilitary group, much like the Khamis Brigade, before Moammar rebuffed the effort. In 2009 he made a high profile visit to the U.S. where he met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. His location is also unknown.
|Hanna and Milad Gadhafi|
In addition to siring eight children of his own by two wives, Moammar Gadhafi also adopted two children -- or said he adopted them. A 1986 U.S. airstrike on Gadhafi's compound (right) killed 37 people, including an 18-month-old girl. The girl's body was shown to U.S. reporters and said to be that of Hanna Gadhafi, the leader's adopted daughter. Prior to the airstrike, he was not known to have an adopted daughter.
After the airstrike, Gadhafi adopted his nephew Milad as a son, claiming the boy had save his life during the attack.