After months of contradictory reports stating that the eldest son of former Libyan revolutionary leader Muammar Gaddafi had been released, today, the terrorist group that had been holding him has confirmed his release.
According to the Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Battalion, Saif al-Islam was released on Friday after six years of imprisonment. This comes as the Egyptian supported Libyan House of Representatives in Tobruk has offered a political amnesty to all prisoners being held in mainly western and central parts of Libya due to their associations with Gaddafi’s Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.
The main commander of the Libyan National Army which is based in Tobruk, Khalifa Haftar was once a decorated officer who served the Jamahiriya until falling out with Gaddafi in the late 1980s.
After months of disinformation, now that the world is confident that Saif al-Islam is finally free, the two biggest questions are, where is he and what role if any will he play in attempting to bring the failed Libyan state back together?
His whereabouts are currently unknown but there is an increasingly high probability that he has gone to regions near Tobruk close to the the Egyptian border. Of the many governments vying for legitimacy in Libya, the Tobruk government is clearly the one that would be the most sympathetic to Saif al-Islam.
There is also a possibility that he may be trying to reach an amnesty deal with Egypt which supports the Tobruk government. Alternatively, he may have fled to Algeria or even to Niger. He originally attempted to flea to Niger before his capture by jihadists in late 2011.
Ordinary Libyans have become increasingly distraught with the new realities of their country which has gone from a stable, prosperous and secure state to one where two governments in Tripoli have been contending for power: The western backed Government of National Accord and the even more extreme National Salvation Government.
Added to this is a jihadist quasi-government in Misrata backed by Turkey and Qatar while Libya’s most stable force is the Tobruk based House of Representatives.
Added to all of this are al-Qaeda, ISIS and a multitude of other smaller terrorist and piratical factions, all vying for control of Libya’s vast natural resources.
Saif al-Islam could play some role in trying to bring order back to Libya. He was widely seen as the natural successor to his father before the violent NATO/jihadist overthrow of the legitimate government of Libya.
At the same time, the jihadist forces who have been unleashed on Libya since the NATO war in 2011 are still actively seeking Saif al-Islam’s death. These forces are far from in a position whereby they can be easily destroyed.
Like Libya itself, the fate of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi looks increasingly uncertain.