Late Libyan leader, Moammar Gaddafi
On the anniversary of the capture and killing of Moammar Gaddafi, Libya is still grappling with the legacy of his four decades of rule as the interim government and the dictator's former spokesman engaged in a war of words amid the ongoing chaos.
The Libyan government said Saturday its forces had detained Gaddafi's high profile spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, but an online recording from a man purporting to be Ibrahim denied that claim and said he wasn't even in the country, reports The Associated Press.
The conflicting reports, neither of which could be independently verified, reflect the turmoil that has persisted over the past year, leaving the oil-rich North African nation deeply divided. Tensions have spiked as rival forces battle over the city of Bani Walid.
Bani Walid, some 140 kilometres (90 miles) southeast of Tripoli, was the last major city in Libya to fall to the uprising, thanks in part to its protected location in a valley near the mountains. Over the past year, it has seen periodic violence and emerged as the most significant town in Libya still resisting the country's new authorities since Gaddafi was slain near his hometown of Sirte last year.
"We've lost too many people in Bani Walid and we are still losing them so I don't think it's time for a celebration," said Abdessalem Mahfoud, a local neighbourhood council member in Tripoli, when asked about the anniversary of Gaddafi's death.
The turmoil in Libya, which overthrew Gaddafi last year with the help of NATO airstrikes, has become a campaign issue in the U.S. presidential race after an attack on the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
For many who fought against Gaddafi, the new Libya cannot be born until the last vestiges of the old regime, fugitives like Ibrahim and towns like Bani Walid, have been routed.
"I don't think things are really moving in the right direction until we finish with Bani Walid because it is stopping us from making a new Libya," said Abdel-Basit al-Mzirig, a former deputy justice minister and now on Libya's human rights council.
A statement from the prime minister office said that Ibrahim was caught at a checkpoint outside Bani Walid while trying to flee a recent uptick in fighting over the town and would be taken to Tripoli for questioning.
However, the government produced no proof of its claim and hours later, Ibrahim had not been seen in public. State television did briefly show a photograph of a man in a hospital bed with a bandaged shoulder which they labelled as the former spokesman, but the veracity of the photo could also not be confirmed.
The urbane, English-speaking Ibrahim became the face of the regime in its final months and was the most well-known former regime figure to remain unaccounted for after Gaddafi's son and heir-apparent Seif al-Islam was taken late last year. The regime's former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi was later detained in Mauritania and extradited to Libya.
It is not clear what charges Ibrahim might face, but officials in the past have suggested he might be accused of incitement and disseminating false information.