Prosecutors in Libya have issued an arrest warrant for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, over suspected ties to Russian mercenaries.
A BBC World Service investigation has revealed links between the shadowy Wagner group’s activities in Libya and war crimes committed against Libyan citizens.
Russian fighters first appeared in Libya in 2019 when they joined the forces of a rebel general, Khalifa Haftar, in attacking the UN-backed government in the capital Tripoli. The conflict ended in a ceasefire in October 2020.
The Wagner group was first identified in 2014 when it was backing pro-Russian separatists in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Since then, it has been involved in regions including Syria, Mozambique, Sudan, and the Central African Republic.
The order for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s arrest was circulated internally to Libyan security bodies by prosecutor Mohammed Gharouda on 5 August, but was only made public after the BBC’s investigation was broadcast.
Before the 2011 uprising, he was believed by some to represent the hope for gradual reform in Libya, which had been ruled by his father Muammar since 1969.
A fluent English speaker who studied at the prestigious London School of Economics, he was long seen as one of the most influential people in the country and a likely successor to his father.
However, once anti-government protests broke out in Libya in early 2011, Gaddafi joined the state’s bloody crackdown on protesters.
The rest of his family were eventually killed or fled the country. Gaddafi, meanwhile, was captured by rebels in late 2011 and taken to the city of Zintan, to the southwest of Tripoli. He was freed by the militia holding him six years later.
During his detention, he was sentenced to death in absentia by a court in Tripoli over the killing of protesters in 2011.
He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity committed during the crackdown.
Although he has not been seen in public in years, Gaddafi gave an interview to the New York Times in July, in which he spoke of his plans to return to politics.
According to sources in Tripoli, he is likely to still be hiding in Zintan.