Libyan convoys in Niger, may be Gaddafi deal

Tue Sep 6, 2011 4:55pm GMT
 

By Emma Farge and Abdoulaye Massalatchi

BENGHAZI, Libya/AGADEZ, Niger (Reuters) - Scores of Libyan army vehicles crossed the desert frontier into Niger in what may be a bid by Muammar Gaddafi to seek refuge in a friendly African state, military sources from France and Niger told Reuters on Tuesday.

The Libyan rebels who overthrew Gaddafi two weeks ago said they also thought about a dozen other vehicles that crossed the remote border may have carried gold and cash apparently looted from a branch of Libya's central bank in Gaddafi's home town.

Details of the developments remained very sketchy.

The military sources said a convoy of between 200 and 250 vehicles was escorted to the northern city of Agadez by the army of Niger, a poor and landlocked former French colony. It might, said a French military source, be joined by Gaddafi en route to adjacent Burkina Faso, which has offered him asylum.

U.S. officials said they thought Gaddafi was still in Libya, though the convoy in Niger might contain senior figures.

France, Niger and Burkina Faso, as well as Libya's new rulers and NATO, all denied knowing where Gaddafi was or of any deal to let him go abroad or find refuge from Libyans and the International Criminal Court who want to put him on trial.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said it was for Libyans to decide the venue but that Gaddafi must not slip away quietly. "He will have to face justice for all the crimes he has committed in the past 42 years," he said.

Near Tripoli, Reuters journalists found torture chambers used recently as Gaddafi tried to suppress the revolt.   Continued...

Muammar Gaddafi speaks at a Tripoli hotel in this still image from a video by Libyan TV released May 11, 2011.  REUTERS/Libyan TV via Reuters TV
 
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