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Who is Saif al-Islam Gadhafi?

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Gadhafi pledges to fight until the end
  • Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, 39, is captured in Tripoli
  • He is the son of and close adviser to longtime strongman Moammar Gadhafi
  • Saif and his father are wanted by the International Criminal Court
  • Once thought of as a reformer, he emerged as one of the regime's defenders

(CNN) -- Back in February, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi -- the second-oldest son of longtime Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi -- told CNN Turk his family had no intention to ever leave Libya.

"We have Plan A, Plan B, Plan C. Plan A is to live and die in Libya. Plan B is to live and die in Libya. Plan C is to live and die in Libya," he said.

How quickly things can sometimes change.

Sunday, as rebels continued their advance on Tripoli, threatening to end Gadhafi's four-decade rule, Saif was captured by opposition forces. He is the highest-level government official to fall so far.

CNN reporter arrives in central Tripoli
CNN speaks with rebel in Tripoli
Tipping point in Tripoli

Saif, along with his father, is wanted by the International Criminal Court, which issued warrants for their arrests in June on charges of crimes against humanity. The ICC has talks scheduled with the rebels Monday on transferring Saif to its custody, Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said.

Saif, 39, has never lived a day in which his father didn't rule Libya -- as its undisputed leader inside the country and an enigmatic, controversial voice for the world.

Once thought to be a leading reformer inside the Libyan government, Saif emerged as one of the regime's most visible defenders. He was the first to address the nation about the unrest and detail a plan to address it.

At one point during the uprising, sources close to the elder Gadhafi said that any transition in Libya would have to involve his son, Saif, long seen as a possible successor to his father. He denied having any such desire to rule.

Saif later made very public vows to fight to the "last bullet."

His support for his father, if not altogether unexpected, surprised some who had previously seen Saif as the opposite of the elder Gadhafi.

Whereas Moammar Gadhafi years ago launched a program to "destroy imported ideologies, whether they are Eastern or Western," his son speaks fluent English, earned his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times and has been a frequent go-between in talks with international officials.

Moammar rarely goes anywhere without an ornate Bedouin tent and wearing distinctive tribal dress. The well-traveled Saif, meanwhile, is more likely to appear in Western business attire: A suit and tie.

While the father runs a nation, his son's main job -- at least before his 2009 appointment as general coordinator, a position like many in the nation's government with few guidelines -- was heading a charity, the Gadhafi Foundation.

And lastly, while the elder Gadhafi is known for his heavy-handed rule in Libya and its restrictions on civil rights and more, Saif fashioned himself as a human rights advocate and pushed for democratic and institutional reforms that could give more power and freedoms to the people -- at least before the popular uprising.

Yet for all their differences, Saif's standing in the world was always defined by his father's role. While some saw the son as more open to change, there was little question -- particularly recently -- that his loyalty remained first with his father.

"He's the heir apparent," CNN National Security Contributor Fran Townsend said about Saif, months ago. "The question will be, will he be able to retain control in light of the current chaos?"

Early Monday in Libya, the answer looks to be a resounding no.

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