Libya: Gaddafy’s Children

We look at the fates of the successors to the former Libyan leader.

Colonel Gaddafy had eight children, seven of them sons.   Three are now believed dead, four in exile and one is still at large. Their activities have ranged from playboy and professional footballer to security chief and U.N. goodwill ambassador. Beyonce has played at their private parties and they have gone hunting with British royalty.


Saif al-Islam Gaddafy

(Born 25 June 1972). Gaddafy’s second son, an architect by profession, was seen as Gaddafy’s successor and was a spokesman to the Western world. He was viewed as politically moderate until the 2011 uprising and in 2006, after criticizing his father’s government, he briefly left Libya.

Following the total distruction of Sirte, Gaddafy’s home town, the former leader’s tribe, the Qadhadhfa (or Gaddafiya), declared their support for Saif al-Islam. Various reports have him trying to escape to Niger protected by Touareg tribesmen or seeking to surrender to the International Criminal Court, which wants him for war crimes.

Saif al-Islam was once the darling of the British establishment: known personally to Tony Blair, Lord Mandelson, the Duke of York and Nat Rothschild, and a donor to the London School of Economics, who gave him a PhD. The 39-year-old playboy owned a mansion in Hampstead, occupied by anti-Gaddafy activists during the uprising.

Recent reports have alleged that Saif al-Islam is currently residing in Niger.

UPDATE: Saif al-Islam Gaddafy has been captured

In Exile:

Mohammed Gaddafy

(Born 1970). The only son born to Gaddafy’s first wife, he fled to Algeria in late August after Tripoli was overtaken.  During the battle for Tripoli he was said to have surrendered to rebel forces but then escaped the following day.  He used to run the Libyan Olympic Committee and was also in charge of the country’s telephone network, allegedly used to eavesdrop on opposition activists and imprison them.

Hannibal Muammar Gaddafy

(Born September 1975). Hannibal, who is also in Algeria, is best known for his violent behaviour in Europe: attacking police officers in Italy (2001), drunk driving (2004), assaulting a girlfriend in Paris (2005). In 2008, he was charged with assaulting two domestic staff in Switzerland, and was  briefly imprisoned by Swiss police. The arrest created a major diplomatic row between Libya and Switzerland. Libya withdrew millions of dollars from Swiss bank accounts and halted oil exports. Two Swiss nationals in Libya were not allowed to leave for two years.

Aisha Gaddafy

(Born 1976). A lawyer by training, Aisha also fled to Algeria in August where she gave birth to a daughter, her fourth child. She ran a charitable foundation and in 2004 joined a team of lawyers defending former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. She had a glamorous image and a role as goodwill ambassador for the UN.

Saadi Gaddafy

(Born 1973) Saadi, once a professional footballer, fled to Niger in September in a large convoy. Niger has said he will not be extradited if there is a possibility he will not get a fair trial or risks getting the death penalty. He tried to negotiate with the NTC in late August after its fighters swept through Tripoli. He had a brief career as a professional footballer in Italy’s Serie A soccer league between 2003 and 2007. He also played for the Libyan national team. Libya’s former Italian coach, Francesco Scoglio, said he was fired for not picking Saadi to play. A Libyan prosecutor said the NTC had approved a request for an investigation to be opened into Saadi’s role in the murder of a Libyan soccer player in 2005.


Mutassim Gaddafy

(1977 – 20 October 2011)

Mutassim was Colonel Gaddafy’s fourth son and was both his national security adviser (since 2007) and a Lieutenant Colonel in the army. He died with his father and was buried with him. He was seen as a possible successor to his father after Saif Al-Islam. According to a cable published by Wikileaks in 2009 he demanded $12bn from the chairman of Libya’s national oil corporation. Mutassim reportedly hired the singer Beyoncé for £1.5m at a New Year’s Eve party. He was trained as a physician and military officer.

Saif al-Arab al-Gaddafy

(1982 – 30 April 2011).

Said al-Arab was recently appointed a military commander in the Libyan Army. As a four-year-old he was wounded in the 1986 air strike on his father’s compound ordered by then US President Ronald Reagan in retaliation for the Berlin disco bombing in the same year.  He studied in Germany and was reported to have been involved in a scuffle at a Munich nightclub. Saif al-Arab and three of Gaddafy’s grandchildren were reportedly killed by a NATO bombing raid on Tripoli in April.

Khamis Gaddafy

(27 May 1983 – 29 August 2011)

Gaddafy’s seventh son was serving as the commander of the Libyan Army’s elite Khamis Brigade, which played a leading role in Gaddafy’s effort to crush the revolt. On 30 August 2011, a spokesman for the NTC said it was “almost certain” Khamis Gaddafy had been killed in Tarhuna two days earlier, during clashes with units of the National Liberation Army. Khamis was reported killed at least three times during the conflict. Khamis was also wounded in the 1986 US bombing of Tripoli. His brigade was accused of killing dozens of detainees in Tripoli.

Find out more with the following back issues of the Africa Research Bulletin

Libya – North Africa. Powder Keg Scenario (Vol. 48 no.9)