Saif al-Arab: A playboy known for his hard-living ways

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The Independent Online

Saif al-Arab (whose name meant Sword of the Arabs) was one of the least known and least political of the Libyan leader's eight children.

During the weeks of Nato airstrikes, Saif al-Arab was conspicuous by his absence as his siblings were wheeled out for propaganda purposes and to attack the policies of the West. It was perhaps unsurprising considering his colourful track record. In US diplomatic cables detailing the excesses of the regime and its fractious first family, there are few mentions of the 29-year-old – other than for his hard-living ways – with the focus instead on the struggle for succession between his more ambitious brothers.

One cable, written by the US ambassador to Tripoli, Gene Cretz, in March 2009 and published by the WikiLeaks website, describes him as the least publicly known of the Gaddafi children. "He lives in Munich, where he pursues ill-defined business interests and spends much time partying."

While partying, it appeared that Saif al-Arab got into several scrapes that attracted the attention of the police. He appeared in the pages of the German media in 2006 when he was reportedly involved in a scuffle at a Munich nightclub. An article the following year suggested that he fought with a bouncer who tried to throw out his female companion when she began to undress on the dancefloor.

In 2007, his house and hotel suite were raided by police over allegations of illegally possessing weapons. Bavaria's Interior Ministry said last month that in the four years to 2010, he was investigated on 10 counts ranging from speeding to bodily harm. All the investigations against him were dropped.

According to the WikiLeaks documents, in 2009 the German ambassador had expressed concern that it is "only a matter of time before there is an incident involving him".

At a family meeting in Libya, Muammar Gaddafi's daughter Aisha was given the task of monitoring the activities of three of the "ne'er-do-well" sons including Saif al-Arab. At one point, he was reportedly summoned back to Libya to play a part in the political process, but apparently defied the wishes of his family, as he wanted to continue his "studies" in Germany.

He has been in Libya during the uprising. Iran's press agency reported that Gaddafi had sent him to Benghazi to try to end the revolt, but he joined the rebels instead. However, reports that he defected were never confirmed and he continued to be named in sanctions, suggesting that diplomats believed he remained loyal to the regime.