Monday, September 05, 2011

Libyan troops roll into Niger; will Qaddafi soon join them?

There is no evidence to suggest that ousted Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi has fled to Niger, but as the Associated Press reports, troops loyal to Qaddafi left Libya on Monday and entered Niger.

The convoy consisted of more than a dozen pickup trucks bristling with well-armed Libyan troops, said Abdoulaye Harouna, the owner of the Agadez Info newspaper, who saw them arrive.

At the head of the convoy, he said, was Tuareg rebel leader Rissa ag Boula, a native of Niger who led a failed war of independence on behalf of ethnic Tuareg nomads a decade ago. He then sought refuge in Libya and was believed to be fighting on behalf of Gadhafi.

It was not immediately clear if the convoy included any members of the Gadhafi family or other high-level members of his regime.
Al Jazeera adds that it is possible Niger is not the final stop for these troops, and Qaddafi could be joining them.
A French military source and a Niger military source told the [Reuters news] agency that the convoy, escorted by the Nigerien military, arrived in the northern desert town of Agadez on Monday.
The convoy contained between 200 and 250 military vehicles and included officers from Libya's southern army battalions, and likely crossed from Libya into Algeria before entering Niger, the sources said.
The French military source said he had been told Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam might be considering joining the convoy en route to Burkina Faso, a landlocked West African state which has offered Gaddafi and his family asylum and has a border with Niger.
Niger’s harbouring of wanted Gaddafi-regime officials is “a breach of the United Nations travel [restrictions] for most of these people”, Aly Abuzaakouk, executive director of Libya Human & Political Development Forum, told Al Jazeera.

He said Niger should "not side with the enemy of the Libyan people".
CBS News notes that the hunt for Qaddafi has been non-stop since the National Transitional Council stormed into Tripoli and effectively took over control of the country.

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