A former soldier from Canada working as a private security contractor has admitted he helped late leader Muammar Qaddafi’s son Saadi flee Libya last month as rebel forces took over Tripoli.
Saadi’s longtime bodyguard, Gary Peters told Canada’s National Post that he was part of a team that drove Qaddafi’s third son across Libya’s southern border to Niger.
Peters, an immigrant who is not a Canadian citizen but has permanent resident status, returned to Toronto in September, suffering from an untreated bullet wound to his left shoulder when the convoy was ambushed after crossing back into Libya.
“I’m not a mercenary,” Peters told the daily, which said his account had been verified by several sources.
“I work for a person in particular, have done for years, for close protection. When we go overseas, I don’t fight. That’s what a mercenary does. Defend? Yes. Shoot? Yes. But for defense, for my boss, and that’s what happened. The convoy got attacked and two of us got hit.”
Peters said he had provided security services to Qaddafi family members since 2004, and continued to do so during NATO’s campaign to oust the late dictator.
Though he worked mostly for Saadi, he also guarded Qaddafi’s sons Seif al-Islam and Hannibal, and said he had escorted Hannibal and his sister Aisha from Libya to Algeria in a convoy.
Peters said he first met Saadi while serving in the Royal Australian Army when Qaddafi’s son was visiting the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and Peters was assigned to protect him.
After moving to Canada in 2002, Peters said he worked “on and off” for the next two years as a close protection operative for security contractor Blackwater USA, which was barred from Iraq over a deadly 2007 shooting and later renamed to Xe Services.
Though Canada has enacted UN sanctions imposing an arms embargo on Libya, and frozen the assets of Saadi and other Qaddafi family members, Peters has not been charged with a crime.
“I broke no laws,” he said. “But they have to investigate, which is fine.”
Peters, who said he had spoken to Saadi by telephone since returning to Canada and planned to return to Niger this weekend, defended his boss.
“If he was a mass murderer, then obviously I wouldn’t work for him,” Peters said. “The man’s a gentleman, non-violent.”
According to Peters, other members of Saadi’s security team were from Australia, New Zealand, Iraq and Russia. He said they had all previously served as special forces.
He warned the fight in Libya was far from over, even after Qaddafi’s death.
“Don’t believe it’s going to settle down because there are still three brothers there that are very, very angry. And three brothers that have a lot of money,” said Peters.
“And they’ve still got that money. We just purchased, brand-new, three Land Rovers, bullet-proof. We paid cash for it. That means there’s money around.”