A convoy carrying ousted Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi’s son al-Saadi has crossed into neighbouring Niger, a spokesman for Niger’s government said. The fugitive dictator’s 37-year-old son is one of the highest-profile former regime figures to flee to the landlocked African nation.
Mr. al-Saadi entered Niger in a convoy with nine other people, Niger Justice Minister Amadou Morou said on Sunday. The vehicles were travelling south toward the outpost of Agadez, where other fleeing Libyan loyalists are believed to be holed up in a hotel.
“I wish to announce that one of Qadhafi’s sons — al-Saadi Qadhafi — was intercepted in the north of Niger by a patrol of the Nigerien military,” Mr. Morou told reporters late Sunday.
He said Mr. al-Saadi “has no status at all” in Niger, indicating that he has not been granted refugee status, which would guarantee him certain rights.
Since last week, several convoys carrying senior officials of the former Libyan regime as well as civilians and soldiers have made their way across the porous desert border into Niger. Among them were several of Col. Qadhafi’s top military officers, including his chief of security and the head of his southern command.
Niger has faced increasing scrutiny for allowing the former regime members onto its soil, and Mr. al-Saadi’s arrival will likely intensify international pressure on the country to cooperate with Libya’s new rulers. They want all Col. Qadhafi’s sons — and Col. Qadhafi himself, who is on the run — to be turned over for trial.
Last week, the U.S. urged Niger to detain any individuals who may be subject to prosecution in Libya, as well as to confiscate their weapons and impound any state property, such as money or jewels, that were illegally taken out of the country.
While some senior former regime officials have managed to escape, Libya’s new leaders have arrested several former high-ranking regime officials since the then-rebel fighters swept into Tripoli on August 21, effectively bring an end to Col. Qadhafi’s nearly 42-year rule.