Rebels, looters target Gadhafi family homes

Associated Press

TRIPOLI, Libya — Moammar Gadhafi's son al-Saadi liked fast cars, yachts and soccer, and his beachfront villa was stocked with his expensive toys. His sister Aisha lived in a two-story mansion with an indoor pool and sauna.

As rebels took control of the Libyan capital over the weekend, the luxurious homes — symbols of the Gadhafi family's excesses — were among their first targets. After driving out the guards, rebels trashed and looted the villas and neighbors wandered through the wreckage Wednesday expressing their anger at the Gadhafi family's wealth and ostentatious tastes.

"I can't even believe what I am seeing," said Muftah Shubri, a resident of Tripoli's western Nofleen neighborhood, as he walked across Aisha's lawn to the large covered pool where a ball and a small rubber boat still floated in the water.

Gadhafi's 42-year rule over Libya had increasingly become a family business, with the dictator divvying up key spheres of interest, from oil to security, among his six sons.

In recent years, the Gadhafi offspring had been involved in a series of scandals: Hannibal got arrested in 2008 in Switzerland for mistreating his servants in a Geneva luxury hotel and Muatassim reportedly paid $1 million for a private New Year's concert by Beyonce.

Al-Saadi, a 38-year-old soccer aficionado, was described in a 2009 WikiLeaks cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli as having a troubled past, including run-ins with police in Europe, drug and alcohol abuse and excessive partying.

On Monday, a day after thousands of rebels rode into Tripoli, about 200 people stormed al-Saadi's home on the Mediterranean, said Seifallah Gneidi, a 23-year-old Tripoli rebel who participated in the looting.

Gneidi said he took a large bottle of gin, a toothbrush with a gilded handle and a pair of Diesel jeans. "We wanted to have the stuff that he had," Gneidi said, a Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder. He said rebels are not condoning looting of private property, and only allow the wrecking of symbols of the Gadhafi family's abuse of power.

Gneidi said al-Saadi had four cars — a BMW, an Audi, a white Lamborghini and a Toyota — that were all driven off during the ransacking. His claim about the fate of the cars could not be verified. A large painting of a yellow Lamborghini decorated the back wall of his covered parking area.

In an office area in the villa, reporters saw large piles of catalogues for yachts and cars. A catalog by the firm Benetti had a yellow handwritten post-it note attached listing the price for a 30-meter-long yacht as 7 million euros. A DVD with gay porn entitled "Boyz Tracks" slipped out of the stack of documents.

Business cards were scattered on the floor for a firm called "Natural Selection" that listed al-Saadi as partner and executive producer with an address on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. The looters left behind a black cloth, apparently the back of a "director's chair," that read, in green: "Executive Producer al-Saadi Gadhafi."

Al-Saadi must have been concerned about his safety. A long underground passage with thick concrete walls led from a second villa he was building to the street.

The complex also had a grass soccer pitch. Al-Saadi, who was seen as a poor soccer player was involved in one of Libya's soccer teams, Al-Ahly. Al-Saadi also headed Libya's Football Federation.

Next to the field stood a barbecue pit and two tents, including one that housed guards and was filled with ammunition, said Gneidi. Al-Saadi also kept dogs and had his own kennel with four cages, one decorated with pictures of Dobermans.

If al-Saadi had the reputation of a reckless troublemaker, the 35-year-old Aisha cultivated the image of caring about ordinary Libyans.

However, her neighbors said that several years ago, a small neighborhood clinic was razed to make room for her home.

"You feel that this is not supposed to happen," Sharif Ben Suleiman, a 56-year-old university professor, said as he and other local leaders inspected the house. "It's a place that is serving the community and then it is serving no one."

The presence of small children was felt everywhere in the house. A large play room was strewn with toys, party hats and streamers were in a pile in an entrance hall, and her library contained a number of children's books.

Among Aisha's DVDs were action and mystery films, but also one on getting back in shape after childbirth.

Like others in the Gadhafi family, she had expensive tastes — Bohemian crystal glasses and a brown Dolce & Gabana leather jacket for one of her children were among the items not carted off by the looters.

Asked how the community felt about the presence of the Gadhafi daughter, Ben Suleiman, the neighbor, said it's enough to look out the second-floor window. Beyond the walls of Aisha's spacious compound, houses — some of them barely shacks — were pressed tightly against one another.

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