World May Not Have Seen the Last of the Gadhafis

New York Times reporter tracks down son Seif, who is plotting a return to power in Libya
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 2, 2021 4:25 PM CDT
Reporter Tracks Down a Long-Lost Gadhafi
In this Nov. 19, 2011, file photo, Moammar Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, is held in the custody of revolutionary fighters in Zintan, Libya.   (AP Photo/Ammar El-Darwish, File)

A decade ago, the world appeared to be rid of the Gadhafi clan of Libya. Longtime leader Moammar had been ousted and killed during the Arab Spring uprising, and three of his sons were dead as well. Another son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi—his father's presumed successor—was captured by rebel fighters and subsequently sentenced to death in absentia by a court in Tripoli. The rebels who captured him continued to hold him, however, and no proof of life had been evident since 2014. Until now. New York Times Magazine writer Robert F. Worth has tracked down and interviewed Seif, who is not only very much alive but plotting a return to power in Libya, perhaps in the next presidential election. And those rebels who captured him? They have become his allies as Libya has descended into a decade of chaos, corruption, and violence.

"Can you imagine?" Seif tells Worth. "The men who used to be my guards are now my friends." The 49-year-old spoke to the journalist inside an "opulent" villa in Zintan, the region he was brought to after his capture. Gadhafi brushed off the abuses of his father and said his own legal troubles (in addition to the death sentence, he's wanted by the International Criminal Court) could be "negotiated away" if he were to be elected president, per Worth. "His campaign pitch is the kind that has worked in many countries, including our own: The politicians have brought you nothing but misery. It is time for a return to the past," writes Worth. As Gadhafi himself puts it: "They raped the country—it’s on its knees. ... It’s more than a failure. It’s a fiasco." Click to read the full story, which has much more on the background of Gadhafi and the current troubles of Libya. (More Moammar Gadhafi stories.)

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