Skip to main content

Gadhafi sons weigh 'victory or martyrdom' versus surrender

By the CNN Wire Staff
Click to play
Gadhafi son 'will not surrender'
  • Saif al-Islam Gadhafi calls on his countrymen to "clean this country from those gangsters"
  • His brother Saadi Gadhafi says he is open to surrender, then says he is not
  • "The leader is fine," Saif al-Islam says about his fugitive father

Are you there? Share your photos and video, but stay safe.

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Two sons of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi appeared to offer divergent and sometimes contradictory answers Wednesday to a question many of their countrymen are grappling with: Keep fighting or surrender?

"Victory or martyrdom!" a defiant Saif al-Islam Gadhafi told Rai TV, a Syrian television station, in a telephone call during which he called on his countrymen to rise up.

"Everyone should move now, begin to attack these gangsters," he said. "Attack everyone, day and night, until we clean this country from those gangsters and those traitors."

He added, "Wherever you see the enemy, attack them. They are weak, they have suffered lots of losses and they are now licking their wounds."

Gadhafi did not divulge the whereabouts of his father, but said, "The leader is fine. We are fighting and we are drinking tea and drinking coffee and sitting with our families and fighting."

Gadhafi said he was speaking from a suburb of Tripoli, where he had met with residents and found their morale was high. He also said he had recently visited the family's compound Bab al-Aziziya in Tripoli, an improbable statement.

"No one is afraid or frightened," he said.

Cracks developing in Gadhafi family?
Moammar Gadhafi's family photos
Libyan teen: I was forced to kill rebels
Burned Gadhafi family nanny gets care

Rebel forces were largely composed not of Libyans but of foreign mercenaries, he said. Any Libyans who may have appeared with rebel forces were acting under duress and threat, he said. "They hold them hostage and they tell them either we rape your women or you will have to make this announcement."

Referring to the rebels' ultimatum to the people of Sirte to surrender by Saturday or face attack, Gadhafi predicted rebel attackers would find 20,000 fighters "ready, willing and able" to defend the loyalist stronghold where his father was born.

Saif al-Islam said he had spoken with tribal leaders who were meeting in Bani Walid "and they all agreed unanimously that this is our country and we will defend it."

In response, NTC member Abdulrazag Elaradi told CNN that he is not aware of any meeting by tribal leaders in Bani Walid to support Gadhafi. He said the rebels were not involved in any negotiations with loyalist forces.

Saif al-Islam's brother, Saadi Gadhafi, appeared to be open to the possibility of surrender, but with a catch. "If this will prevent bloodshed, we will do it, just give us guarantees," said a man identified by Al Arabiya as Saadi Gadhafi.

"We need to stop the bloodshed right away," Saadi Gadhafi said, adding that he was speaking on behalf of his father.

He said he could not say whether he was in close touch with Moammar Gadhafi, but added, "If the rebels want to lead this country; we don't have an objection to that. In the end we are all Libyans and we are all together."

Asked if his father was willing to surrender, Saadi said, "Stop the fire and all ways of negotiations are open."

Asked if he was willing to hand Sirte to rebel forces without a fight, he said, "Nothing is impossible."

Whatever happens, he added, "I don't have a weapon and will never fight a Muslim Libyan."

'Bad time to be a black man in Libya'
Gadhafi town falls to rebels
Captives executed in Libya
Sadistic brutality in Libya

Despite that talk, Saadi Gadhafi told CNN Wednesday in an e-mail that he was leaning against surrendering to the rebels. "Since they don't want to negotiate, I don't think I will go to them and surrender myself," he wrote. "They have already killed thousands of people and destroyed the country. I'd rather surrender myself to a real government than ... to those guys."

Moammar Gadhafi and Saif al-Islam along with the former head of military intelligence, Abdullah Al-Senussi, have been charged by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity.

The scions' comments came as Libyans celebrated their first Eid al-Fitr in four decades free of the iron grip of their father.

Eid marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

But the enthusiasm in the capital was tempered by grim humanitarian conditions.

The United Nations estimated that 60% of Tripoli's 1.6 million residents had no access to clean drinking water as temperatures approached 100 degrees Fahrenheit. U.N. agencies have sprung into action to supply water and food in what the global body described as an "alarming" situation.

The chaos typical of any transfer of power through violence was visible at a Tripoli jail, where prisoners said they had been picked up on suspicion of being mercenaries for Gadhafi.

As many as 15 black African prisoners crowded each cell in the stifling heat. "They're saying we have worked with Gadhafi," said Ibraheem Enas Afseni, a Ghanaian who said he had been picked up en route to his job as a day laborer. "We have not worked with Gadhafi. We are here struggling to get money and go back to our country."

"Every day, I cry," said Blasnina Dawali, who said she had set out a week ago to buy food and was picked up en route. "They're treating us like animals."

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants entered the country as day laborers long before the unrest began.

The man temporarily in charge of the jail, Alaa al-Ameen Abu Rass, acknowledged that many of his charges were likely innocent, but said it was not his concern. "I didn't bring them here," he said.

Libyan prisoners appeared to be getting better treatment. They had more space to move, and better access to the scant water supplies. "Right now, they're treating us good, but some people come here and they call us dogs, and they go, like, 'You worked for Gadhafi,' something like that, but most of us don't," said Firas Salaheddin Mustaf.

Such occurrences are to be expected, said Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. "Whenever an order that has been oppressive comes apart, there will always be repression, there will always be dark deeds," he said.

Gadhafi's whereabouts remained unclear 11 days after opposition forces stormed the capital and captured his Tripoli compound.

Rebels now have their sights set on the remaining bastions in Libya under Gadhafi's control, including Sirte. Fighters were waiting about 65 miles from the town, biding their time until they get orders to go in.

With Gadhafi's fall, security in the country remained a key concern.

But the United Nations special adviser on Libya said the transitional council had rejected the possibility of U.N. military observers, though it would welcome a key role in helping Libya.

"It's very clear the Libyans want to avoid military deployment by the U.N. or others," Ian Martin told reporters. "They are very seriously interested in assistance with policing to get the public security situation under control and gradually develop a democratically accountable security force."

But Martin said it's not clear what form international assistance might take.

Aref Nayed, spokesman for the interim council's stabilization team, said Libya will cooperate with the United Nations in security matters, including the training of police and efforts to de-mine and remove unexploded ordnance.

"The U.N. contribution is very much welcomed and appreciated," Nayed said. "However, we don't anticipate asking for any U.N. forces to be involved and of course we also don't want any troops on the ground from any nation."

At present, Tripoli has no police on the streets even as the humanitarian crisis escalates.

Representatives from about 60 countries and organizations will gather Thursday in Paris to meet with the interim council to discuss plans for a new Libya.

The council has indicated it wants to hold democratic elections within 18 months, and conference attendees will want to hear how the rebels plan to accomplish that task, said Jean-David Levitte, chief foreign policy adviser for French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Levitte also said some attendees want to reach a consensus on unfreezing Libyan funds frozen by a U.N. resolution. They know of at least $50 billion of such funds. Already, the United States, France and the United Kingdom have said they will support unfreezing the money.

CNN's Nic Robertson, Mohammed Tawfeeq, Frederik Pleitgen and Jim Bittermann contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Hope and weapons lessons
CNN's Ben Wedeman offers a rare view of fighters, proud to be Libyan, new to warfare yet willing to fight
Gadhafi heard loud and clear
Moammar Gadhafi no longer has his Tripoli compound or his power apparatus. He is a fallen leader and a fugitive
A glimpse into the Gadhafi family
The Gadhafi family -- a large, at times quarrelsome clan that helped the embattled strongman hold onto power
CIA, Gadhafi spy ties revealed
Seized documents revealed a close relationship between the CIA and counterparts in the Gadhafi regime
Gadhafi nurse on life with 'Daddy'
Oksana Balinskaya served as one of Gadhafi's five Ukrainian nurses for nearly two years
Libya's other wealth
Archaeological treasures can be found all over the country, and UNESCO is worried
Ex-jihadist at heart of revolution
Abdul Hakeem Belhaj, who once fought with al Qaeda, is now commander of anti-Gadhafi forces in Tripoli
Real challenge may lie ahead
Former CIA director Michael Hayden says building a stable new regime could be as difficult as ousting Gadhafi