"I am here to refute the lies," Saif al-Islam said on Monday, referring to reports of his arrest.
"We broke the back of the rebels. It was a trap. We gave them a hard time, so we are winning," he said.
Saif al-Islam, son of Muammar Gaddafi, who was reported to have been captured by Libyan opposition forces on Sunday, has made a public appearance in Tripoli.
“I am here to refute the lies,” Saif al-Islam said on Monday, referring to reports of his arrest. He travelled to the Rixos Hotel late in the night and spoke to foreign journalists staying there.
“We broke the back of the rebels. It was a trap. We gave them a hard time, so we are winning,” he said.
Television footage showed him pumping his fists in the air, smiling, waving and shaking hands with supporters, as well as holding his arms aloft with each hand making the “V” for victory sign.
Gaddafi’s son told journalists that Tripoli, which has been largely overrun in the past 24 hours by rebel forces seeking to topple his father, was in fact in government hands and that his father was safe.
He said he did not care about an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court in The Hague seeking him and his father for crimes against humanity. Earlier, armed pro-Gaddafi security men guarding the hotel took a small group of journalists to Gaddafi’s Bab al-Azizyah compound, where they had a meeting with Saif al-Islam.
They returned to the hotel accompanied by Saif al-Islam, who then spoke to journalists in the lobby before taking some of them back to the compound a short distance away for a brief visit.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor, had earlier said the 39-year-old was arrested and in detention. Waheed Burshan, an NTC member told Al Jazeera, “We had confirmation Saif al-Islam was arrested, but we have no idea how he escaped.”
Meanwhile, rebel forces said they had arrested Saadi Gaddafi, the beleaguered Libyan leader’s third son. The claim was made even as the whereabouts of other relatives and senior officials remained unknown. Eldest son ‘escapes’
Gaddafi’s eldest son, Mohammad, who was also detained by rebels on Sunday night is reported to have escaped. In an interview with Al Jazeera after he surrendered, Mohammad expressed his “sadness” at the fighting in Libya. The interview was interrupted by gunfire.
“What’s happening in Libya is very upsetting. The killing between brothers, between Muslims, is something that saddens me,” he said.
Mohammad was the chairman of Libya’s main state-run telecommunications firm, but his role in his father’s government was reportedly minimal, far smaller than Saif al-Islam’s.
The biggest question is now about Muammar Gaddafi himself, last heard in a brief audio recording on Sunday night. He called on Libya’s tribes to March on the capital. “How can you allow Tripoli to be burned?” he asked.
Three other Gaddafi sons – Hannibal, Mutasim and Khamis – have not been located. Hannibal had little role in politics, but Khamis headed a feared army unit that took a leading role in suppressing protests. Mutasim was an army officer and a security adviser to his father.
The Al-Arabiya news network reported on Monday that Khamis was travelling to central Tripoli with soldiers loyal to him. That report could not be immediately confirmed.
Abdullah al-Senussi, Gaddafi’s longtime intelligence chief and brother-in-law, also seems to have eluded the rebels. He was last seen at Tripoli’s Rixos Hotel on Sunday, when he told foreign journalists that “Western intelligence” was “working alongside al-Qaeda to destroy Libya”.
There are rumours in Arabic newspapers that Senussi fled Tripoli, either to southern Libya or to the Tunisian town of Djerba, but those reports cannot be substantiated.
Senussi was the third Libyan official charged by the ICC in June. The court accused him of carrying out a campaign of murder, mass arrest and torture.