Since the Libyan uprisings
began in February 2011, Khamis's name has been cited -- whispered, often
-- in connection with some of the bloodiest incidents of violence
against peaceful protesters and armed rebels alike. Since the fall of
Tripoli one week ago, scattered and unreliable rebels reports have
placed the Khamis Brigade seemingly everywhere and nowhere all at once;
on the run in one part of town and on the offensive in another.
It would have been easy to dismiss the reports altogether if not for Human Rights Watch's discovery,
in a Tripoli suburb, of "the charred skeletal remains of
approximately 45 bodies, still smoldering" in a warehouse that appears
to belong to the Khamis Brigade. The building adjoins a military
compound and had "32nd Brigade" spraypainted on the side. Witnesses
described soldiers trapping civilians -- possibly as many as 130 --
inside the building, climbing onto the roof, and staging a mass
execution with rifles and hand grenades.
Rumors and bodies, both
features of Muammar Qaddafi's Libya for most of his 42 years in power,
have long followed in the wake of his son Khamis. On Monday, a few hours
after Human Rights Watch released their report, rebel leaders told
journalists from Reuters, Sky News, and Al Arabiya that they had killed
Khamis. It was the third such rebel-touted report of his death, and as
before, no evidence has been provided. The previous two announcements
were later retracted as propaganda, perhaps disseminated by regime
loyalists to ease Khamis's latest getaway.
Khamis Qaddafi / Facebook
Information about this
shadowy regime figure was sparse and difficult to confirm even before
Libya's civil war. Educated on military affairs and strategy in Russia,
he has a reputation
for seriousness and for avoiding the European parties and tabloid
scandals in which his six brothers -- even "serious" Saif and Mutassim
-- have at one point or another participated. In the weeks before the
Libyan uprisings began, Khamis was reportedly touring the U.S. as an
"intern" with AECOM Technology Corporation, an infrastructure
development company with business ties in Libya. According to a report in the UK Telegraph, Khamis's internship included visits to U.S. military facilities.
reports place the Khamis Brigade along the front line, wherever it
happens to be, during much of the seven-month battle against protesters
and rebels. One such story appeared only a few days into the February
the force as using anti-aircraft guns and mercenaries, both features
that would reappear in later firsthand reports. Black-skinned
"mercenaries" imprisoned by rebels would later identify as fighting for the "Khamees battalion," although it's still not clear if such fighters were hired or pressed.
"Take Misrata or I will kill you myself. If you don't take Misrata, we are finished," Khamis reportedly
told his soldiers before an assault on the city, which saw some of the
worst violence in the civil war. During fighting there, government
forces launched cluster bombs,
a weapon so deadly and imprecise that it has been banned by most of the
world as a tool far more useful for killing large numbers of civilians
than against legitimate military targets.