Between Libyan rebels' false announcement about the arrest of Moammar Gadhafi's most powerful son and his surreal reappearance in front of a Tripoli hotel, some 30 officers guarding Gadhafi's compound laid down their arms, according to the rebels.
Although it cost the rebels credibility on the international stage, the misleading news was used by the opposition as a way to ease Gadhafi loyalists' grip on power. It appears to have been a success.
Mahmoud Jibril, acting head of the rebels' cabinet, told reporters that unconfirmed reports about Seif al-Islam's arrest Sunday came from a rebel source in Tripoli. Jibril said that he notified the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, but asked him to wait for confirmation before passing it on.
Seif al-Islam, his father and Libya's intelligence chief were indicted this year for allegedly ordering, planning and participating in illegal attacks on civilians in the early days of the violent crackdown on anti-regime protesters.
"The rebel never came back to me and the news remained unconfirmed," Jibril said Tuesday. But on TV, the head of the council and other members did not say that the news was unconfirmed.
Other council officials gave detailed information about how Seif al-Islam was purportedly arrested.
Fathi al-Baja, a council official, said that a commander of a battalion in charge of protecting the capital and the leader had been negotiating secretly with the rebels and tipped the rebels about the whereabouts of Gadhafi's son.
After the announcement, some 30 officers assigned to guard Gadhafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound laid down their arms, which "helped us take over Bab al-Aziziya compound swiftly," Jibril said. In addition, 11 countries recognized the council, he said.
"Politically we won. Military we won. The final chapter, entering Bab al-Aziziya compound, was accomplished when a large number of officers surrendered," he said.
Early the next day, Seif al-Islam resurfaced free and boasted in a bizarre reappearance that his father's loyalists still controlled part of Tripoli. He remained free late Wednesday.