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Khadafy son is extradited, will face charges in Libya

Led crackdown against protesters in 2011 uprising

Al-Saadi Khadafy headed a brigade of special forces during the revolt that brought down his father.

ASSOCIATED PRESS/file 2011

Al-Saadi Khadafy headed a brigade of special forces during the revolt that brought down his father.

TRIPOLI, Libya — Al-Saadi Khadafy, a son of former Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy, was extradited on Thursday to Libya from Niger, where he had taken refuge as his father’s regime crumbled in 2011, bringing cheers from Libyans as the government prepares to prosecute him for his alleged role in trying to suppress the uprising against his father’s rule.

Khadafy becomes the second son of the ousted and slain leader to be held in custody in Libya. His brother Seif al-Islam was captured in 2011 and has been held in a western mountain prison by a militia that is putting him on trial, refusing to hand him over to the central government.

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At the time of the revolt that brought down his father, Khadafy headed a brigade of special forces that was involved in the crackdown against protesters and rebels. But he is perhaps even more notorious among Libyans for his dark career in soccer, the country’s most popular sport.

A playboy with a lavish lifestyle, Khadafy treated the country’s soccer league as his personal fiefdom. He played for several Libyan teams — and for an Italian team until he failed a drug test. At various times, he headed Libya’s soccer federation and its national team.

In one case, security forces opened fire on fans in a 1996 match, killing a number of people in murky circumstances. Khadafy is also suspected in the 2005 killing of Bashir al-Riyani, a popular Libyan soccer player who was a vocal critic of the Khadafy regime.

Cars honked horns in celebration in the streets of the capital, Tripoli, when his extradition was announced in the early morning. In the evening, fireworks went off as people cheered and waved flags in the street, according to footage on Libya’s Al-Ahrar TV. A group of soccer players held public memorial for Riyani.

‘‘This is a joy for all Libyans,’’ Tripoli resident al-Sharif Gheith said, adding that Khadafy’s family and his regime officials are to blame for the country’s woes. ‘‘But now, thank God, they are captured, and all of the country will be calm.’’

That seems far from likely, however, as Libya’s chaos has spiraled out of control in the three years since Khadafy’s fall. There was skepticism as well, with some saying the government was playing up the extradition to divert attention to its inability to bring stability.

Armed militias run rampant, the central state has little authority, and Parliament and the prime minister are locked in a power struggle that has burst repeatedly into violence. Last week armed rioters stormed Parliament, killing a guard, wounding six lawmakers, and forcing the legislature to move its sessions into a hotel.

‘‘I think the government is . . . trying to cover up its failure,’’ said Sulieman al-Azabi, a lawyer and political analyst. ‘‘The role of Al-Saadi Khadafy and other ex-regime officials in the events now is very minor.’’

In Niger, government spokesman Marou Amadou confirmed that Khadafy had been extradited to Libya. He said that the son of the former Libyan leader, as well as his colleagues who accompanied him, had failed to respect the conditions of their stay in Niger. He said during a Thursday press conference that one of Khadafy’s friends, Abdallah Mansour, had traveled to southern Libya, where he tried to destabilize the country’s government.

‘‘This puts us in a difficult position, because Niger is Libya’s neighbor, and we have told the authorities in Libya that we will not become a source of preoccupation for them,’’ said Amadou, who is also the country’s minister of justice.

Amadou also said that Niger had sought to find a host country for Khadafy, but that there were no takers.

‘‘We took this decision in the interest of our country and in the interest of our people, both for today and for tomorrow,’’ Amadou said. He added that Niger had previously worried that Khadafy might be killed if he was handed over to Libya, but that officials no longer feared for his safety.

Khadafy was smuggled across the desert that separates Libya from Niger in 2011, just as his father’s regime was crumbling. He arrived in a convoy of Libyan vehicles, accompanied by several high-ranking officials in his father’s military. He and his companions were placed under surveillance in a guarded villa. Libya has long argued that he should be returned to face justice.

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