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Gadhafi son reappears in Tripoli, claims father is safe

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Gadhafi's son: 'Things are fine in Libya'
  • NEW: Saif al-Islam Gadhafi appears at Tripoli hotel after report of capture
  • Another of Gadhafi's sons is reported to have escaped
  • Sporadic fighting persists in Tripoli as Gadhafi's whereabouts remain unknown
  • Scud missile fired from Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte; target undetermined

Get the latest developments via the LIVE BLOG.

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Two of Moammar Gadhafi's sons, who had been reported captured over the weekend, were free early Tuesday as forces loyal to the embattled Libyan leader battled rebels trying to consolidate their hold on Tripoli.

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi showed up at the Rixos Hotel, one of the remaining strongholds of pro-Gadhafi forces, in a convoy of armored Land Cruisers. In a brief interview with CNN's Matthew Chance, he said his father and several of his sisters were safe in Tripoli, and that loyal troops had "broken the back" of the rebels who moved into the capital over the weekend.

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, who is wanted on war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, had been reported captured on Sunday along with two of his brothers. Another of those siblings, Mohammed Gadhafi, was reported to have escaped Monday, according to the Libyan ambassador to the United States.

There was no immediate explanation from the National Transitional Council, the rebel leadership that had announced their capture Sunday.

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The younger Gadhafi said news of his arrest had been a trick by the rebels, and that he had been traveling around Tripoli in his armored convoy the entire time. He said that government forces had lured the rebels into a trap in the capital, and that Gadhafi loyalists "have broken the spines of those rats and those gangsters."

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC's chief prosecutor, had said Sunday that he would seek Saif al-Islam Gadhafi's extradition following his capture. Asked about the warrant for his arrest, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi told reporters, "To hell with the ICC."

The rebels had most of Tripoli under their control late Monday, but pitched battles continued at various points around the city and Moammar Gadhafi's whereabouts remained unknown. Gun battles in the area around the longtime Libyan strongman's former Bab al-Aziziya compound echoed until after nightfall Monday.

"The real moment of victory is when Gadhafi is captured," NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil told reporters in Benghazi.

Gadhafi has held power in Libya since a September 1969 coup. The rebellion against him began in February and has been aided by NATO airstrikes that began in March, under a U.N. mandate to protect civilians.

The revolt gained momentum rapidly in the past two weeks, with rebel forces launching their push on Tripoli over the weekend. In a statement to reporters from his vacation on the Massachusetts resort island of Martha's Vineyard, U.S. President Barack Obama said that while situation remained fluid, it was clear that "Gadhafi's rule is over."

"The pursuit of human dignity is stronger than any dictator," he said.

On Sunday, Gadhafi took to the airwaves several times urging citizens, including women, to fight the rebels -- whom he called "very small groups of people who are collaborators with the imperialists."

"Get out and lead, lead, lead the people to paradise," he said.

Under Gadhafi, Libyans lived "as slaves," a 23-year-old Tripoli woman, who agreed to be identified only as Noura, told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360." Though Gadhafi is the only Libyan leader she has ever known, his ouster "will be the best thing that ever happened to me," Noura said.

"I will thank Allah for every moment I will live without him, without his control and without his sons' control as well," she said.

I will thank Allah for every moment I will live without him, without his control and without his sons' control as well.

If the Gadhafi regime falls, it would follow revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt this year in what is known as the Arab Spring. A spate of other countries in the region -- including Bahrain, Yemen and Syria -- have also seen protests by citizens demanding more freedom and a change in regime. In many cases, these demonstrations have been met with brute force.

But pro-Gadhafi forces were still fighting into the early hours of Tuesday. Tracer fire, anti-aircraft guns and artillery could be seen and heard around Zawiya, about 30 miles west of the capital, which was a strategic steppingstone for the rebel advance into Tripoli over the weekend. NATO warplanes flew overhead at times, and ambulances raced through the town after the fighting erupted.

Gadhafi's forces also fired at least three missiles at the rebel-held city of Misrata, east of Tripoli, on Monday evening, the NATO alliance reported. NATO said it had no reports of damage or injuries, but called the launches a "direct threat to innocent people."

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"Although the surface-to-surface missiles in Gadhafi's arsenal are highly inaccurate, and are not designed to hit a specific target, they are a weapon of terror," NATO said. "Their use against an urban or industrial area is utterly irresponsible."

At least one missile was a Soviet-era Scud, launched from near Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, said a U.S. military official who spoke on condition of anonymity Monday evening. NATO forces destroyed another of the missiles on the ground over the weekend, and another of the short- to medium-range missiles was fired at rebel forces last week but exploded harmlessly in the desert, a senior NATO official said.

U.S. and NATO officials said they were concerned forces loyal to Gadhafi might stage a last-ditch attack against civilians. Senior levels of NATO were watching closely for any sign of a massing of Libyan government forces or the movement of weapons such as rockets or artillery, said a senior allied official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of sensitive intelligence matters.

Former U.S. diplomat Nicholas Burns told CNN that it was "imperative" that Gadhafi be found quickly and the fighting brought to an end.

"The danger here is that this insurgency could continue, the fighting could continue, as long as Gadhafi believes he's still in power," Burns said.

The rebels on Monday also arrested Hala Misrati, an anchor from Libya's state-run television. Misrati had brandished a gun on air over the weekend and said that staffers at the television station were prepared to become martyrs.

"With this weapon, I either kill or die today," she said Sunday.

Rebels said they found her in her car near a coffee shop Monday, and pandemonium ensued when word got out that Misrati had been arrested. Witnesses said Misrati was unharmed but would not be speaking to reporters. A cordon of soldiers quickly formed to isolate her from media representatives, other rebels and gawkers.

CNN's Sara Sidner, Jomana Karadsheh, Kareem Khadder, Raja Razek, Christine Theodorou, Kamal Ghattas, Roba Alhenawi, Holly Yan, Chelsea J. Carter, Josh Levs and Barbara Starr and journalist Mike Mount contributed to this report.

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