By KARIN LAUB and BEN HUBBARD, Associated Press
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's son and one-time heir apparent, who was reported arrested by rebels on Sunday when they advanced on the capital Tripoli, is free.
Seif al-Islam turned up early Tuesday morning at the Rixos hotel, where about 30 foreign journalists are staying in Tripoli under the close watch of regime minders. He then took reporters in a convoy of black, armored SUVs on a drive through parts of the city under the regime's control.
Associated Press reporters were among the journalists who saw him and went on the tour. He told the reporters: "We are going to hit the hottest spots in Tripoli."
They then drove around streets full of armed Gadhafi backers, controlled by roadblocks. They visited several sites where Gadhafi supporters were gathered. The convoy ended up outside his father's Bab al-Aziziya compound and military barracks, where at least a hundred men were waiting in lines for guns being distributed to volunteers to defend the regime. They also toured the Gadhafi stronghold neighborhood Bu Slim.
Rebels appear to have taken control of large parts of the capital since they entered on Sunday night and Gadhafi's grip on power seemed to be slipping fast. But it was known that the area around the Rixos hotel and nearby Bab al-Aziziya were still under the regime's control.
In addition to Seif al-Islam, the rebels have claimed they also captured two other sons of Gadhafi, but that has not been independently verified.
There was no explanation from either Seif al-Islam or the rebel leadership council in the city of Benghazi as to why Seif al-Islam had been reported arrested, something that was confirmed by the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands. Seif al-Islam and his father are both wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity.
Given that the ICC had confirmed the arrest, his bizarre appearance raised the possibility that he had escaped rebel custody.
When asked about the ICC's claim that he was arrested by rebels, he said: "The ICC can go to hell," and added "We are going to break the backbone of the rebels."
At Bab al-Aziziya he shook hands with his supporters, who waved green flags and posters of his father. He blamed NATO for bringing rebels into the capital through the sea.
At one point, he stepped out of his white stretch limousine to shake hands with a wildly cheering crowd, who chanted in support as he beamed and flashed the "V for victory" sign. He wore an olive-green T-shirt and camouflage trousers, with a full beard.
Inside the limousine, he told AP Television: "We are here. This is our country. This is our people, and we live here, and we die here. And we are going to win, because the people are with us. That's why were are going to win. Look at them -- look at them, in the streets, everywhere!"
Asked about the situation in Tripoli, he said: "We will go around to the most heated areas to make sure that the situation is all right."
He claimed NATO and the West distorted Libyan communications.
"They sent text messages to the Libyan people through the Libyana network. They stopped our broadcast transmission. They perpetuated an electronic and media war in order to spread chaos and fear in Libya. Also they brought gangs from the sea and by car to Tripoli," Seif said.
Libya state television went off the air on Monday, prompting speculation it had fallen to the rebels.
"And you have seen the Libyan people -- women and men: citizens, rise up and break the backbone of the rebels," he said. "Now we will go and turn around things in Tripoli city in order to see that the situation is all right."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)