Naharnet

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi Reportedly Approaching Niger Border

Former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s son and onetime heir apparent Seif al-Islam was on Tuesday poised to cross into Niger along with his father's ex-intelligence chief, a Tuareg official said.

The two are the top most wanted fugitives from the slain despot's ousted circle, who are wanted by the International Criminal Court and had been widely expected to seek refuge in Niger following Gadhafi’s death last week.

Libya's southern neighbor, which for years was one of the west African countries that benefited most from Gadhafi’s largesse, is already sheltering dozens of former regime officials, including another one of Gadhafi’s sons.

Seif "is near the Niger border, he hasn't entered Niger yet but he's close," a local official from the northern Niger's Agadez region told Agence France Presse on condition of anonymity.

"It appears he is being escorted by former Tuareg fighters but I am not yet able to confirm this," the official added.

The local official said that Abdullah al-Senussi, a former intelligence chief and Gadhafi’s brother-in-law, was also approaching the border with Niger.

"Both of them are near the Niger border, they can't be very far from each other," he said.

In June, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants against Gadhafi, Seif and Senussi for "crimes against humanity" allegedly committed by troops under their command as they quelled the uprising against his regime.

In September Interpol issued a "red notice" for the trio.

A Niger government source said Saturday that Senussi, 62, had been spotted in northern Niger, but that his presence in the country was "not yet officially established."

In Libya's eastern city of Benghazi, a senior official of the National Transitional Council, interim oil and finance minister Ali Tarhouni told reporters that Seif posed no danger to the new regime.

"Seif al-Islam is not a threat. His father, his army, his mercenaries have been conquered," Tarhouni said.

He added: "I don't know where he is."

France may demand Senussi's extradition if he is arrested by Niamey, since a Paris court sentenced him in absentia to life in prison for the 1989 bombing of a French UTA airliner that claimed 170 lives.

So far 32 members of Gadhafi’s entourage including his son playboy former footballer son Saadi have taken refuge in Niger for "humanitarian" reasons.

Among them are three generals and the head of Gadhafi’s personal bodyguards, Mansour Daou, according to the authorities, who say they are under surveillance but have not been detained.

However on Thursday in Gadhafi’s hometown Sirte where the strongman was tracked down, local medical staff and a fighter said Daou was wounded there, and Free Libya television in Tripoli said he was captured.

Niger's Foreign Minister Mohammed Bazoum told AFP on Friday that the end of the Libyan conflict would allow it to lift restrictions on senior Gadhafi loyalists who sought refuge there, except Gadhafi’s son Saadi.

"Of the 32 people who are in Niger, only one has a clear judicial status, Mr. Saadi Gadhafi. He's the target of a U.N. Security Council resolution travel ban. He's in Niger, we're obliged to apply this resolution," Bazoum told AFP during a visit to Paris.

Source: Agence France Presse


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