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The WikiLeaks Guide to the Gadhafi Clan

Feb 23, 2011 – 2:52 PM
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Theunis Bates

Theunis Bates Contributor

Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi heads a fractious family obsessed with power, wealth and chart-topping R&B stars, according to U.S. diplomatic cables released by anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks.

Those damning documents portray the tyrant and his eight children as a bizarre and brutal Brady Bunch, who were seemingly so fixated on building petty fiefdoms and fighting one another that they didn't realize the country was collapsing around them.

Here's what WikiLeaks has taught us about the secret life of the Gadhafi clan.

Moammar Gadhafi
The 68-year-old colonel -- who grabbed power from King Idris I in a bloodless coup in 1969 -- was described by America's ambassador to Tripoli, Gene Cretz, in 2009 as a "mercurial and eccentric" figure who has "an intense dislike or fear of staying on upper floors, reportedly prefers not to fly over water, and seems to enjoy horse racing and flamenco dancing."

These amusing details might suggest that the self-described "King of Kings" is a comedy tyrant. But the cables also paint him as a master tactician, who after 42 years in charge still oversees every aspect of the North African nation's economic, domestic and foreign policy -- as well as its brutal security apparatus.

He also manipulated his family in order to prevent any premature challenges to his rule. "[Gadhafi] has placed his sons," Cretz wrote in 2009, "on a succession high-wire act, perpetually thrown off balance, in what might be a calculated effort by the aging leader to prevent any one of them from authoritatively gaining the prize."

Saif al-Islam
The tyrant's second eldest son and heir apparent attempted, until recently,
In this photo released on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011 by China's Xinhua News Agency, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, waits before a press conference in Tripoli, Libya, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011. (Hamza Turkia, Xinhua/AP)
Hamza Turkia, Xinhua/AP
Heir apparent Saif al-Islam Gadhafi has a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics.
to portray himself as a dedicated humanitarian and modernizer. The 38-year-old earned a Ph.D. from the prestigious London School of Economics, and his Gadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation spent millions shipping aid to earthquake-damaged Haiti.

A 2010 cable reported that many young Libyan men "aspire to be like Saif and think he is the right person to run the country." They describe him as educated, cultured and someone who wants a better future for Libya, in contrast with his more irresponsible brothers, the cable reported.

However, Saif -- who, like every member of the family, has profitable links with numerous Libyan oil companies -- does have a wild side. A March 2009 document noted his "hard-partying, womanizing ways." Another cable stated that he had purportedly paid Mariah Carey $1 million to sing at a New Year's Eve bash on the Caribbean island of St. Barts. "Saif's Oea newspaper hotly denied that their boss had been the financier," the cable continued, "and corrections were printed in western media noting that Muatassim, not Saif al-Islam, was the organizer of the party in question."

Irrespective of who paid for the celebration, Libyans now hate Saif as much as his brothers. On Sunday, he appeared on Libyan TV and justified atrocities against protesters, whom he called drunks, drug addicts and terrorists.

"Saadi has a troubled past," noted a 2009 cable, "including scuffles with police in Europe (especially Italy),
Saadi Gadhafi, son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and head of the Zwara Abu Kammash duty free zone project, speaks during a press conference in Tripoli on January 31, 2010. (Mahmud Turkia, AFP/Getty Images)
Mahmud Turkia, AFP/Getty Images
Saadi Gadhafi is an engineer and former pro soccer player with "a troubled past."
abuse of drugs and alcohol, excessive partying, travel abroad in contravention of his father's wishes." The colonel's third eldest son has followed an unusual career path: An engineer by training, he became a professional soccer player and played a single season with Perugia in Italy's Series A league in 2003. He was booted from the squad after failing a drug test.

He now owns a large chunk of al-Ahli, one of Libya's top two teams, although his focus "drifted from soccer to the military (he was briefly an officer in a special forces unit and reportedly did well, but was bored by military life)." Several newspapers report that Saadi was involved in the bloody crackdown in the eastern city of Benghazi, which is now controlled by anti-Gadhafi forces.

The fourth eldest son is viewed as Saif's biggest competitor to take over the family business. It wasn't always so. Muatassim fell out with his father in the late 1990s and was forced to go into self-imposed exile in Egypt for several years. He was summoned back home in 2006 and appointed national security adviser -- a position that allowed him to take part in international security and counterterrorism negotiations. Muatassim visited Washington in April 2009, where he met with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Saif was reportedly furious that his brother was allowed to handle such high-profile talks. According to a March 2009 document, he "bridled at the fact that Muatassim accompanied [his father] on the latter's [2008] visit to Moscow, Minsk and Kiev."

Muatassim was said to enjoy support from the regime's more conservative elements, who disliked Saif's close ties with the West. However, he lost the backing of some traditionalists last year, after the international media reported on his "New Year's Eve trip to St. Bart's" that "reportedly [featured] copious amounts of alcohol and a million-dollar personal concert courtesy of Beyonce, Usher and other musicians."

He has a "checkered" history "of unseemly behavior and public scuffles with authorities in Europe and elsewhere," according to a 2009 cable. These "scuffles" include a 2001 incident in a Rome hotel -- when he attacked three policemen with a fire extinguisher -- and an alleged assault on two of his staff in Geneva in 2008. He was arrested and charged in that attack but was released after just two days. Libya subsequently banned Swiss imports, stopped issuing visas to Swiss citizens and forced all Swiss companies in Libya to close their offices.

Hannibal -- Gadhafi's fifth eldest son -- is also suspected of beating his wife, Aline, on several occasions. He was forced to flee Britain in December 2009 after staff at London's swank Claridge's hotel heard a scream from his room and found Aline with a broken nose and other facial injuries. Gadhafi's daughter, Aisha, notes a cable, flew to London despite being "many months pregnant," and persuaded Aline to tell police that she had been hurt in an accident.

Gadhafi's sixth son has stayed out of the limelight. Cables note that he is a "well-respected commander of a special forces unit that effectively serves as a regime protection unit" and "spent 14 months in a combined Russian staff college course especially designed for him and obtained a Ph.D. in military sciences in 2007."

His unit, the 32nd Brigade, is "widely known to be the most well-trained and well-equipped force in the Libyan military," reported a November 2009 paper from the Tripoli embassy. Media reports suggest that the brigade, believed to contain a large number of sub-Saharan African mercenaries, has been involved in many attacks on protesters.

The colonel's only daughter acts as "minder for the most troublesome" Gadhafi children.
The daughter of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Aisha, the director of the Libyan Waatassimou Charity Society, attends on August 30, 2010 the end of a lecture on the Koran in Tripoli. (Mahmud Turkia, AFP/Getty Images)
Mahmud Turkia, AFP/Getty Images
Aisha Gadhafi is a trained lawyer who served on Saddam Hussein's defense team.
However, diplomatic cables suggest that Aisha -- a trained lawyer, who served on former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's defense team -- often ends up siding with the ne'er-do-wells rather than disciplining them.

"Aisha played a strong role in urging a hard-line Libyan position with respect to the Swiss-Libyan contretemps over Hannibal's arrest," explained a 2009 dispatch. "Separately, the Swiss ambassador told us that Aisha's less-than-accurate rendering to her father of the events surrounding Hannibal's arrest and treatment by Swiss authorities helped stoke [Gadhafi's] anger."

Her exaggerations, said the diplomat, made it almost impossible for Swiss and Libyan officials "to find an acceptable compromise" to the dispute.

Gadhafi's first son was his only child with first wife, Fatiha, whom he separated from after six months of marriage. The 40-year-old now heads the Libyan National Olympic Committee and is chairman of the General Post and Telecom Co.

Saif al-Arab
The most publicity shy of the eight siblings, he reportedly lives in the German city of Munich, according to a 2009 cable, "where he pursues ill-defined business interests and spends much time partying. The German ambassador has expressed concern to us that it is only a matter of time before there is an incident involving him."
Filed under: World, AOL Original, Arab World Unrest
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