Gaddafi generals seek asylum in Niger

2011-09-13 22:36

Niamey - Three of Muammar Gaddafi's generals are in Niger's capital after making a 1 600km drive across the desert to negotiate political refugee status for members of the toppled leader's regime, two officials involved in the negotiations said on Tuesday.

The discussion began as soon as the convoy arrived after nightfall on Monday and continued throughout the day on Tuesday. It puts Niger in a difficult situation, caught between demands by Libya's new government to hand them over and calls from Niger's powerful Tuareg community to take them in.

The visibility of the dilemma heightened after al-Saadi Gaddafi, one of Gaddafi's sons who was a special forces commander and is the subject of a United Nations travel ban, entered the country on Sunday.

So far Niger has agreed to hand over any of the three members of the regime wanted by the International Criminal Court.

The other fleeing members of the regime are backed by the powerful Tuareg community, an ethnicity that spans the desert band across Libya, Niger, Mali and Algeria. Gaddafi was especially close to the Tuaregs, and it was from this ethnicity that a majority of his mercenaries are believed to have come.

"The people that are here now are not wanted by the International Criminal Court," said one of the negotiators, who is himself a Tuareg and who asked not to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the press.

"We have recognised the [rebels' National Transitional Council] as the legitimate government of Libya. But if they pressure us to hand over these people, I'm afraid that they will just disappear into the wilderness," he said, suggesting Niger would not be able to detain them.

The generals in Niamey leading the talks include Gen. Ali Kana, a Tuareg who headed Libya's southern command, as well as the chief of the air force and the commander of the zone of Murzuq, said another negotiator, Aghaly Alambo, who led the first convoy of fleeing loyalists across the desert last week.

Finish the formalities

"They needed to come and see the authorities here, to explain themselves and finish the formalities," said Alambo, also a Tuareg who led a rebellion in Niger and later joined forces with Gaddafi. He said sending them back could destabilise the region.

"Take Ali. He's not alone. He's a general and he represents a community. His community is the majority in the south of the country," Alambo said.

"If there is pressure, and he is handed over, there could be trouble in the south. This type of pressure isn't good... He may be only a single human being, but how he is treated could make the south rise up."

Niger appears to have become the only exit for remaining members of Gaddafi's inner circle. After the ruler's wife and several of his children crossed into Algeria, that border was sealed. Access to Egypt, Tunisia and Chad is impeded because the route to those countries goes through areas controlled by anti-Gaddafi forces.

Meanwhile, Niger's border with Libya is vast and impossible for the country's ill-equipped and cash-strapped army to monitor. Since last week, waves of convoys carrying regime officials have drifted across the invisible line set on undulating dunes.

Around 30 Libyans are now in Niger, said Alambo. The majority are relatives and aides of the three generals, but on Sunday, a convoy crossed into the country carrying al-Saadi Gaddafi, one of the ex-ruler's sons. He, too, is expected to make his way to Niamey for talks, said Alambo.

As of Tuesday, he was still in the governor's mansion in Agadez, a town around 800km north of the capital.

He is not sought by the international court, but he is included among those subject to sanctions according to a UN resolution passed in February. The text of the sanction states that the 38-year-old was listed because of "closeness of association with regime [and] command of military units involved in repression of demonstrations."

The son is best known for his attempts to become a professional soccer player, and his love of yachts, fast cars and excessive partying. In the recent fight for Libya, he was seen as attempting to play the role of a peacemaker.

"Saadi? He's just a soccer player. He didn't get involved in the politics like his other brother," said Alambo.

  • marco - 2011-09-13 23:17

    Libya:The Settling Of Scores between pro-Gaddafi forces and the Rebels. The crimes of the Gaddafi dictatorship are legion and well documented by Western journalist,the brutality of the anti-Gaddafi forces this year less so,up until now. Amnesty International has published a 107 page report "The Battle For Libya" which accuses both sides of war crimes.The report notes that by far the majority of atrocities were carried out by the Gaddafi side but also catalogues those committed by the Rebels and warns that these are continuing.In June news reports were warning that a degree of "pay back" was inevitable,and Amnesty suggested it was widespread but notes that the National Transitional Council(NTC)has made strenuous verbal efforts to try and curb it. Amnesty International says there has been lynching of Gaddafi soldiers after capture and that dozens of people accused of being part of the regime have been murdered.These crimes happened after the capture of territory in Eastern Libya and are thought to still be occurring now in the West.It is,in the words of the report a "brutal settling of scores" by anti-Gaddafi forces. In Tripoli it is believed that hundreds of people have been taken from their homes or work places.Many have been beaten with sticks and rifles while bound and blindfolded,in some cases,says Amnesty,they were shot. The campaign of violence against black Africans continues.Of the estimated thousands of people rounded up Amnesty estimates up to half

  • marco - 2011-09-13 23:17

    are foreigners and most of those are black Africans. It accuses the NTC of not doing enough to correct false assumptions that the black African workers in Libya are mercenaries.The NTC has consistently sent messages to its forces ordering them to obey and respect international law and refrain from reprisals.The problem though is not only that some atrocities were inevitable,but that the NTC doesn't control the Rebel fighters.For example,prison officials told Amnesty International that they report to the local military councils only and not to the Ministry of Justice.There is clearly no unified command of the rebel forces now is it,the Misrata fighters will only take orders from Misrata,Tripoli fighters from Tripoli etc,etc. Load of bull**** going on there in Libya where the NTC gets recognition in France by NATO and 30 other nations,but gets ****all recognition in their own country Libya.How about that?

      slg - 2011-09-14 02:10

      Your conclusion is superficial, adolescent and wrong.

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