9 Sep 2011

Senior Gaddafi loyalists reportedly flee to Niger

A group of senior Muammar Gaddafi loyalists has reportedly fled to Niger as Interpol issues arrest warrants for the deposed leader and his sons.

The group of Gaddafi officials is believed to be in Niger’s northern city of Agadez.

Officials in Agadez said the latest convoy of at least three vehicles was carrying 14 people, including at least two senior generals and four top officials.

Reuters news agency reported that they were met at the town of Arlit and escorted by security forces from Niger.

But Niger says it would respect ICC commitments if Gaddafi or his sons entered the country, according to Reuters.

Where is Gaddafi?

Interpol has issued red notices – its highest alert level – for the arrest of Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and Libya’s former head of military intelligence, Abdullah al-Senoussi.

International Criminal Court prosecutors made the request on Thursday after issuing arrest warrants against the three men for crimes against humanity.

In Pictures: The rise and fall of Gaddafi

Gaddafi’s whereabouts remain unknown, but in his latest audio address on Syrian TV, Gaddafi vowed to remain on Libyan soil and fight on.

He urged his supporters to “escalate the resistance against the ‘rats’ in Tripoli”.

Speaking at a press conference in Tripoli on Thursday, NTC Chief Mahmoud Jibril said it was “not wise” to announce where Gaddafi was hiding.

‘Not hosting him’

The latest reports came after Prime Minister of Niger denied Gaddadi was in his country. Speaking after a meeting on Wednesday with Burkina Faso’s President, Brigi Rafini said:

“We hear all kinds of rumours that most of the time have nothing to do with the reality on the ground. People talk about Gaddafi being in Burkina Faso or in Niger but it is not true at the moment.

For the moment we are not hosting him. We welcomed a few officials of Libyan nationality who are in distress, who we have let in for humanitarian reasons. Brigi Rafini, Prime Minister of Niger

“It may be that some come to Burkina or go elsewhere but they are now safely in Niamey in all safety and security, as I said previously for humanitarian reasons,” Mr Rafini said.

Looming deadlines

The journey across the Libyan border into Niger is estimated to take between two or three days, with routes through the Air mountains or through Madama near neighbouring Chad.

Heavy fighting has continued between Libyan fighters and Gaddafi forces near the strongholds of Bani Walid and Sirte, just a day ahead of the deadline for their surrender.

National Transitional Council forces last week warned loyalists that they must surrender by Saturday. But the NTC is still negotiating with Bani Walid’s tribal leaders in a bid to “avoid bloodshed” when they take the town.

Pro-Gaddafi forces are said to have fired barrages of Grad rockets at forces of the National Transitional Council (NTC) that have surrounded both Bani Walid and Sirte.

Nato said it had successfully launched an air strike on a Gaddafi-held warehouse near Bani Walid on Friday which was believed to be holding two Scud missiles.