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Gaddafi’s son plans a power grab

Said al-Islam al-Gaddafi in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in 2008. Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images

Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi has been in hiding for the best part of a decade, says Sabrina Tavernise in a podcast for The Daily. The second oldest son of Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi, he’s a well-heeled LSE graduate. Before abandoning life in the West in 2010 to support his father’s regime, he was friends with George W Bush in Washington and close to Tony Blair. He hung out at Davos. But when Colonel Gaddafi was killed in 2011, Saif disappeared into the Libyan mountains, watching as the country “devolved into chaos”. Now he’s plotting a political comeback.

I met him this year, says journalist Robert Worth. And I didn’t like what I saw. Saif, now 49, lives alone in a “beautiful, sumptuous” villa. He swans about in fancy gowns, reading Robert Greene books about “power and how to get laid”. You’d think a decade in the wilderness would humble you – but Saif seems more “callow” than ever. “We are like fish, and the Libyan people are our ocean,” he mused. “They make space for us.” When Worth took pictures, Saif hid his face with a cloth. He said he wanted to stay mysterious. “I’ve been away from the Libyans for 10 years, I need to come back slowly, like a striptease.”

Still, there’s a good chance his political plan will succeed. And that tells you a lot about the state of Libya. “There’s some nostalgia, some imagined stability and calm” associated with the Gaddafi regime. When your country has been reduced “to cinders and ashes, you’ll take almost any alternative” – even if that means Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi.

Listen to the full episode here.