Reports emerged Saturday that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the last of Moammar Gaddafi’s sons previously unaccounted for, has been captured by militia forces inside Libya. This means, of course, that he will no longer be a potential rallying point for pro-Gaddafi (or, perhaps more accurately, anti-Transitional National Council) fighters. However, this is not the most interesting aspect of this capture. Rather, the interplay between the militia forces and the TNC may reveal a great deal about the future of governance in Libya.
Spokesmen for the TNC in Tripoli have stated that Gaddafi will stand trial, either under government supervision or perhaps under the International Criminal Court. However, it is obvious that there is some serious apprehension in the TNC regarding the well-being of Gaddafi. Said a TNC official, “We would like to see him kept alive… We don’t want accidents this time. This is extremely important for the national council and the Libyan people.” Whether this is important for the Libyan people is one thing, but the fact is that it is huge for the TNC. Rightly or wrongly, the impression is that the TNC wouldn’t or perhaps couldn’t keep the elder Gaddafi alive long enough to stand trial. If the TNC again shows itself to be unable to conduct a trial for Saif al-Islam, then the international community might not be as friendly as it has been to this point.
Unfortunately for the TNC, these issues aren’t relegated solely to the international sphere. There is also potential for tension between the TNC and the militia fighters that captured Gaddafi, which is a more serious and more immediate issue. According to a member of the militia group that captured Gaddafi, he will not be handed over immediately to the transitional government. This could be nothing more than an administrative issue within the miltia, but it could also signify the beginning of a real power struggle between the militias and the TNC, where tensions have already run high in the past. At this point, the militias not only have the weapons and the manpower advantage over the TNC; now, one militia also has a significant chip in Saif al-Islam. It is possible in the coming days that these militia groups may use these advantages to either directly challenge or impose conditions upon the TNC, who desparately needs Gaddafi. to try themselves or hand over to the ICC.