Gaddafi son crosses desert to Niger

Saadi Kadhafi, son of Libyan leader Moamar Kadhafi, wears his new Perugia soccer team jersey after he his official player presentation in Torre Alfina 29 June 2003.
Paolo Cocco

NIAMEY, Niger — One of Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s sons crossed the desert into Niger on Sunday becoming the first family member of the ousted strongman to
join the exodus of senior Libyan officials entering the country in recent days.

Saadi Gaddafi, 38, was among a group of nine people who crossed from Libya into Niger in a convoy of vehicles that was intercepted by Nigerien soldiers, according to the country’s justice minister.

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The whereabouts of his father are still unknown but last week Col. Gaddafi denied reports that he had followed his chief of security into exile in Niger.

“The information I have is about the arrival of a convoy of nine people from Libya. Among them we have one of the sons of Gaddafi who is called Saadi Gaddafi,” said Marou Amadou.

“They were intercepted [heading] in the direction of Agadez and maybe tomorrow [Monday] they will be in Niamey,” he said, referring to the capital of the landlocked desert nation.

Amadou said that his government was not told in advance that the convoy with Saadi on board would be coming.

“Our soldiers patrolling the Sahara met them, we were not informed beforehand,” he said.

“We are hosting these people to [fulfil] our humanitarian obligations,” added Amadou.

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Early last week Mansour Dao, Gaddafi’s internal security chief, was the first senior Libyan official to arrive in Niger. He traveled in a large convoy along with a pro-Gaddafi Tuareg commander, Rissa ag Boula, leading to speculation that Col. Gaddafi himself might follow.

The two men are staying in a villa in Niamey guarded by armed Nigerien soldiers.

On Thursday another convoy of Gaddafi loyalists arrived in the desert town of Agadez in northern Niger. It included the air force chief of staff Ali Sharif Al-Rifi, his pilot and two southern regional military commanders as well as at least six civilians.

The following day Interpol issued Red Notices demanding the arrest of Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and his former director of military intelligence Abdullah al-Senussi. All three are wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Saadi, a former professional footballer who briefly played in the Italian Serie-A, is Gaddafi’s third son, and is not among those wanted for war crimes relating to the ongoing war in Libya. In late August he led an abortive attempt to broker peace talks between his family and Libya’s National Transitional Council.

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Rebel commanders last month said Saadi was attempting to negotiate the terms of his surrender.

Other members of the Gaddafi family, including his wife and daughter, have fled to Algeria.

Niger’s government insists that it is taking in the Libyans on humanitarian grounds and says that it will respect its international obligations to hand Col. Gaddafi over to the ICC if he comes into the country.