Khamis Gadhafi Toured a Major U.S. Port, American Universities a Month Before Protests Began in Libya
What a difference two months makes.
In January, American business executives and government officials rolled out the red carpet for Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's 27-year-old son, Khamis, as he toured the port of Houston and American universities.
This week, U.S. officials were describing Khamis as the "bloodthirsty" commander of an elite unit of the Libyan Army. Unconfirmed reports said he may have been killed after a maverick pilot flew his plane into military headquarters in Tripoli.
Khamis' tour of the U.S. was sponsored by an American engineering firm that does business in Libya, AECOM of Los Angeles, according to business executives briefed on the event.
In Houston, Khamis was given a tour and briefing by officials at the city's Port Authority, according to documents and photographs obtained by ABC News, as part of what a spokesperson called "an educational visit" connected to an "internship associated with his Masters of Business Administration" at an unnamed university. The tour included a maritime security presentation by a former U.S. Coast Guard Commander.
One Houston executive said the group hoped to develop a business relationship with Moammar Gadhafi by giving his son a warm welcome. Business executives said visits to American universities were also on the itinerary, including a trip to Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School of Management. During the visit to Kellogg, Khamis participated in an "executive education program," the University told ABC News.
A month later, a popular uprising was sparked that could topple Gadhafi's 42-year reign.
A spokesperson for the Port of Houston Authority told ABC News in a statement, "In January 2011, prior to the recent unrest in Libya, the Port of Houston Authority granted a request to meet with Khamis Gadhafi during an educational visit he made to the United States. The Port Authority was among a number of national and local institutions visited by Mr. Gadhafi in the course of an internship associated with his Masters of Business Administration."
"In recent years, the United States government has eased diplomatic relations with Libya... Port Authority representatives have traveled to Libyan ports, and the Port Authority entered into informal agreements to encourage future trade with the region," the statement said.