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Qaddafi's brutal family

What is it about dictators and their children?

By Staff writer / August 31, 2011



Reporters, rebels, and the idly curious have spent much of the past week combing through the chintz and excess of the Qaddafi family homes in and around Tripoli, ogling thousand-dollar cases of champagne, making off with trinkets as souvenirs, and talking to the friends and survivors of a family whose whims have been law in Libya for over four decades.

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That evidence of horrible atrocities have been found in Tripoli are hardly surprising. Qaddafi's rule has been punctuated with massacres to "encourage the others" from time to time, most famously the Abu Salim prison massacre in 1996, in which over 1,000 political prisoners were shot dead in a courtyard at the prison. Reporting from Tripoli, Gert van Langendonck saw evidence of the execution of 53 prisoners by troops loyal to Qaddafi's son Khamis Qaddafi as they retreated from the city over a week ago.

But among the evidence of mass killings and torture chambers being unearthed, is also evidence of a banal daily cruelty around Qaddafi's children, practiced for no other reason, it seems, than that perpetrators could get away with it. From accounts pouring out of Tripoli, some of his children come off as far nastier – indeed, stranger – than their father.

Take Muttasim Qaddafi, who invited his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Dutch Playboy centerfold Talitha van Zohn, to visit his beachside villa in Tripoli and party with him between breaks in the battle for Libya. Ms. Van Zohn, who arrived in Libya in early August, had leaped from a hotel balcony, convinced by Mutassim and his cronies that rebels would burn her alive if they caught her. The Telegraph caught up with her at a local hospital.

Muttasim spent vast sums keeping himself and friends like Van Zohn entertained. "I asked him once how much he spent, and he took a minute to add it up in his head," she told The Telegraph. "He said 'about $2 million'. I said, 'You mean a year?' He said, 'No – a month.'" Muttasim "worshiped his father" and "talked a lot about Hitler, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez. He liked leaders who had a lot of power," she said.

He also displayed flashes of brutality.

Once, a servant brought a cold meal to Muttasim. In a rage, she said, he threw the food on the ground and "put that guy like a dog in a corner and then he demanded that he eat the whole lot," she said. She never saw the servant again.

An account of more chilling abuse of the help comes courtesy of Hannibal Qaddafi's wife. CNN caught up with Shweyga Mullah, an Ethiopian hired as a nanny for Hannibal's children, at a family beachside compound. Ms. Mullah had been horrifically scalded with boiling water by Hannibal's wife Aline for, she said, refusing to beat one of the children to stop the girl from crying.

Aline "took me to a bathroom. She tied my hands behind my back, and tied my feet. She taped my mouth, and she started pouring the boiling water on my head like this," she told CNN's Dan Rivers. "When she did all this to me, for three days, she wouldn't let me sleep," Mullah said. "I stood outside in the cold, with no food. She would say to staff, 'If anyone gives her food, I'll do the same to you.' I had no water – nothing." Her wages were never paid.

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