Mabrouk, ya Seif al-Islam!

Wow: credit Seif al-Islam for the grand gesture that changes the narrative of this stage of the war.

Most free men vilified by their countrymen and charged by the International Criminal Court who had heard reports of their capture and wanted to demonstrate that they are still at large would do so by just phoning it in; literally, picking up a phone in some secure location or, if time allows, making a video Osama bin Laden-style.  But not Seif al-Islam: he took the story to the media by driving in the middle of the night to the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli, where most of the foreign reporters are staying.  CNN has the video — the picture above was taken from it.  In the sort of vibrant characterization he learned from his father, Seif al-Islam declares that the regime has “broken the spines of those rats and gangsters” and that the rebels were allowed to enter Tripoli as a trap.  Regardless of whether that last part is true, in an instant the reports of Seif al-Islam’s capture were dashed and serious questions were raised about the credibility of the rebels who had claimed to have taken him.  With a bit of imagination, it might even seem possible the Gaddafis could still survive this.

Except that, despite Seif al-Islam’s claim he’d been driving around all night, his sudden arrival on dangerous streets suggests he did not risk driving far — and that, inadvertently, would seem to reveal that he (and in all likelihood his father) remain at the Bab al-Aziziya compound, which is near the Rixos Hotel, and not any one of the half-dozen other places (including South Africa) where he was rumored to have fled.  This information should help the rebels as they enter the final stages of this war.  So, a media coup or a tactical error?  We’ll see.

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Click here to read the article I wrote and photographed for Travel + Leisure to gain a sense of what Libya felt like to experience on the ground.  Or here for an excerpt from my Libya journals about the surreal experience of running through the Tripoli medina with a human rights activist.  Or here for a look inside my copy of Gaddafi’s infamous Green Book.

 

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