November 20, 2011 / 5:39 PM / in 6 years

NEWSMAKER-Former Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi

TRIPOLI, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Abdullah al-Senussi inspired fear and hatred among ordinary Libyans for decades as the intelligence chief, right-hand man and brother-in-law of Muammar Gaddafi before the Libyan dictator’s fall to a popular insurrection in August.

After three months on the run, Senussi was captured in Libya’s remote southern desert on Sunday by transitional government (NTC) fighters.

Senussi, the last significant former regime figure still at large, was trapped one day after the capture of Gaddafi’s heir-apparent son Saif al-Islam and a month after the elder Gaddafi was seized and lynched by vengeful NTC gunmen.

The International Criminal Court indicted Senussi along with Muammar Gaddafi and Saif al-Islam in June this year for war crimes over alleged armed attacks on civilians in anti-Gaddafi regions shortly after the onset of the uprising in February.

Soon after the revolt blew up, media reports said that Senussi had joined then-foreign minister Moussa Koussa in defecting. These reports about al-Senussi were later denied.

A U.S. national security official said U.S. government agencies were aware that Senussi, together with Saif al-Islam, had been involved in making some early peace overtures to rebels but they were rejected.


Senussi built up a reputation as the brutal enforcer of Gaddafi’s will when he was the chief of internal security during a deadly purge of regime opponents in the early 1980s.

Many Libyans also held Senussi responsible for the 1996 killing of some 1,200 inmates at Tripoli’s Abu Salim prison.

Senussi was a colonel in Gaddafi’s armed forces and the powerful director of Libya’s intelligence apparatus after previous posts as head of military intelligence and deputy chief of the external intelligence agency.

He was one of several Libyan officials who were convicted, in absentia, in a French court in 1999 over the bombing of a French airliner. The plane came down in Niger the previous year, killing all 170 people on board.

A leaked U.S. embassy cable from 2008 described Senussi, who is married to a sister of Gaddafi’s wife, as playing a “significant role” as an adviser to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.

Senussi is a member of the Magarha tribe, believed to be the second-biggest in Libya to which Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the man convicted and jailed for helping blow up Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, also belongs.

U.S. cables published by WikiLeaks site said Senussi asked U.S. diplomats to help smooth the way for al-Megrahi’s release from a Scottish jail, but they demurred. Megrahi was released in 2009 and returned home to a hero’s welcome.

Writing by Mark Heinrich; Editing by Peter Millership

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