Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Saif Betrayed by Guide
Villager who turned in Saif Gaddafi feted as hero
The village tribesman turned desert tour guide who turned in Saif al-Islam Gaddafi after being offered one million euros to drive him to the Libyan border has been feted as a hero.
By Richard Spencer, Zintan and Ruth Sherlock in Tripoli
7:00PM GMT 22 Nov 2011
Yusef Saleh al-Hotmani, from Berqan deep in the Sahara, said he had been offered the money to drive Saif and four companions to the border with Algeria and Niger.
From there, Saif was due to be picked up and driven into exile, "to return later and claim his country", his men told his guide.
In fact, Mr Hotmani headed for a hollow in the sand dunes, where men from the Zintan Brigade were waiting.
"I thank Allah who made it possible for me to conquer this enemy," Mr al-Hotmani, his face swathed in the desert's black headscarf and a new national flag draped round his shoulders, told The Daily Telegraph.
"I was offered millions but all the money they had would not buy a pebble of our sand or one drop of our martyrs' blood."
Saif was seized at 1.30am on Saturday morning, by 14 Zintan men.
He is now being held in a secret location in Zintan, south of Tripoli. In a sign of the sway the town has now won, the brigade's head, Osama Jueili, has been named defence minister in the new interim government.
Mr Jueili denied he had been offered the job in return for handing over Saif al-Islam to central government control. He had first discussed his promotion with Abdulrahim al-Keib, the interim prime minister, 12 days ago, he said.
"If they offered us a post just for this I would consider it an act of condescension," he said. "There is no benefit to Zintan to get the post of minister of defence."
Other appointments include Hassan Ziglam, an oil industry executive, as finance minister, in place of Ali Tarhouni, a former US-based academic who had been expected to stay on to reassure the West of the government’s competence. But there appeared to be few representatives of Islamic factions.
Mr Jueili also confirmed to The Telegraph that two Red Cross representatives visited Saif on Tuesday afternoon. An ICRC spokesman, Soaade Messoudi, said the meeting happened with no guards present, and that he seemed to be in good health.
At first, the Zintan brigade said it would keep the identity of the man who turned in Saif al-Islam secret for his own safety. Yesterday, he said he had already received death threats from pro-Gaddafi supporters but no longer cared what happened to him.
He said he had joined a local rebel brigade at the beginning of the uprising. He was later assigned to "work in a secret way and under cover", leading to his encounter with men arranging an exit for an unnamed "VIP".
Details of the trap were set on Friday. At that stage, he did not know who the "VIP" was, but he said he had a good idea.
"He didn't know that I knew it was him," he said. "Nobody told me but when I thought about it I came to the conclusion it was Saif."
He set off with two cars, Amr Abdulgasem Amr, the nephew of Col Gaddafi's right-hand man Abdullah Senussi, in his own, and a second containing Saif and two other men following.
He said Amr had brought with him two handguns and two hand-grenades, and he was sure he would die in the mission.
"He planned to execute me on the border," he said.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, meanwhile arrived in Tripoli to discuss Saif and Senussi's trials, which he accepted would take place in Libya.
After a meeting, Mohammed Alagy, the justice minister, said Libya's justice system was "absolutely ready" to try Saif. He also said that the death penalty was a possible outcome.
In a new video which emerged yesterday of Saif's capture, he warned his captors they were handing power to Islamist leaders.
"Just give them a couple of months or max one year and you will find out the reality," he says. "Please don't deny that on the day Saif-al-Islam was taken prisoner he warned you of all that."
Yussef Saleh al-Hotmani, Saif's Million Euro Guide Betrayed him
Gaddafi's son betrayed by his own desert guide
ZINTAN, Libya (Reuters) - Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was betrayed to his captors by a Libyan nomad who says he was hired to help Muammar Gaddafi's son escape to neighboring Niger on the promise that he would be paid one million euros.
Saif al-Islam, wanted for prosecution by the International Criminal Court, was captured at the weekend in what one official in the country's new government said was "the final chapter in Libya's drama."
With a black scarf wrapped around his head, Yussef Saleh al-Hotmani said that he contacted revolutionary fighters in Libya's south to inform them when Saif's two-car convoy would be passing through the area on the night of November 18.
"I made Saif believe that I trusted him," he said on Tuesday in Zintan, where Saif al-Islam is being held at a secret location before the details of his prosecution are finalized.
On the night of Saif al-Islam's capture, Hotmani said he was traveling with the younger Gaddafi's personal guard in the first car of their convoy.
"I had agreed with the fighters (who captured Saif al-Islam) that the best place for the ambush would be in a part of desert that was surrounded by high ground," he said.
Ten fighters from Zintan, in the Western mountains, and five from Hotmani's own tribe, al-Hotman, were waiting.
"When we arrived at the dark, deep hollow the gunfire was very precise, it only took about half a minute to capture the first car," he said, adding that he had intentionally told Saif al-Islam's convoy to have the vehicles spaced 3 km (2 miles) apart to give the fighters time to regroup and for Hotmani to join them.
"When the second car arrived, we started to shoot very precisely, to damage the vehicle so he could not escape."
Saif al-Islam, dressed in a long robe and a brown head scarf wrapped around his face, jumped out of the car, tried to run, but was captured, says Hotmani. "We treated him as a prisoner of war."
MUTINY OR CONSPIRACY?
It is unclear if Hotmani had planned to ensnare Saif al-Islam from the moment he linked up with the fugitive's group in the Sahara desert, or if he defected when he had doubts about his payment and feared that he might be killed.
The Saharan nomad, who calls himself the "son of the desert," refused to give details on when or how he contacted the 15 fighters of the interim government who caught Saif al-Islam.
"I'm sure (Saif al-Islam and his guards) were planning to execute me when we reached the border. They had two handguns, two grenades, a knife and handcuffs. They were ready to execute me if they had any doubt," said Hotmani. He spoke with the new Libyan flag draped over his shoulder as a show of solidarity with the country's new rulers.
The fighters allied to the National Transitional Council (NTC) who caught Saif al-Islam refer to Hotmani as a "hero."
There was less than five thousand dollars found in the two-car convoy and Hotmani said he was not paid a penny of the one million euros promised to him.
"I didn't ask for an advance payment or anything," he said. "There was no money in the car. This proves that he wanted to execute me at the border."
SAIF AL-ISLAM WAS "IN DENIAL"
Proclaiming to know several languages and having run a small tourism agency, Hotmani said he was hired as a desert guide for the group that included Saif al-Islam.
"Saif didn't think I knew it was him. Nobody told me it was him," said Hotmani.
Why Saif al-Islam trusted the man who would eventually betray him is not clear but Hotmani said the younger Gaddafi, who had lost his father and three brothers in a revolutionary war that ended his family's rule, was in denial.
"Saif was dreaming of leaving Libya and then to eventually return," said Hotmani.
Those who were with Saif al-Islam in the hours after he was captured paint a picture of a solitary man, calm and controlled.
The commander of the fighters that conducted the ambush, Al-Ajami Ali al-Ateri, said that on the plane which transferred their prisoner to Zintan where he is being held, Saif al-Islam had asked if it had been the Hotmani that had tipped them off.