Daily Champion (Lagos)

Libya: Gaddafi's Fighters in State

Some members of former Libyan leader, Col. Muammar Gaddafi's regime have reportedly stormed parts of Northern Nigeria, just as the Interpol yesterday issued arrest warrants for Gaddafi and two others.

A report monitored on the Hausa Service of Hamada Radio International from Kaduna yesterday said while that some members of the Gaddafi regime have crossed over to parts of northern Nigeria, others were heading towards Burkina-Faso.

According to the report, the fugitives crossed over to Nigeria on Thursday night when convoy of trucks slipped and headed towards the north-west state of Katsina.

The report said: "There have been series of security co-coordinating conferences between Nigeria and Niger on how to fashion out containment strategy of the Libyan crisis. "Some members of the Libyan military have maintained close family ties with Northern Nigeria. "Gen. Youssef Dbiri, who headed Gaddafi's security service has his maternal root in Nguru, Yobe State from North-Eastern Nigeria.

"According to security service sources in Niger Republic, the fragile ceasefire between the Tuqreg rebels and Niamey will be tested in the coming weeks if attempts are made to give outright support to Special Forces from France, UK, USA and Jordan in the Gaddafi hunt.

"Another fear is the solidarity and sympathy which the fleeing Gaddafi supporters might get from Southern Niger, in the Maradi-Damagaran axis, and the outer fringes of Northern Nigeria where al-Qaeda affiliated to Boko Haram is lately seen as a potent forces".

"More than 200 Nigerians were arrested in Libya by the TNC, while about 20 were executed last week on allegations of supporting Gaddafi, as mercenaries."

Meanwhile, as Interpol issued arrest warrants for the former Libyan leader and two others yesterday, reports came from Niger of a new convoy of high-ranking Libyan officials arriving across the desert.

In Lyon, France, Interpol said in a statement that it had issued so-called red notices calling for the arrests of Gaddafi, his son, Seif al-Islam and Abdullah al-Senussi, the chief of the former leader's intelligence agency.

There was no suggestion that Col. Gaddafi or the two other wanted men were known to be among those who arrived in the latest convoy to Niger.

The country has been under intense international pressure to turn over any former officials of the Gaddafi government who arrive there.

Yesterday, an official in Niger said the government would respect the Interpol notices and hand over the fugitives should they cross the border, Reuters reported.

Despite an international manhunt, the whereabouts of Libya's top officials have been uncertain since rebels took the capital, Tripoli, last month.

Since then, Col. Gaddafi and his son have taunted the transitional rebel government in audio messages and urged their loyalists to continue fighting.

In the desert town of Bani Walid, among the last strongholds of support for Gaddafi, fighters lobbed mortar shells and fired rockets yesterday as a deadline for their peaceful surrender was set to expire today (Saturday).

There were no reports of casualties. Rebel negotiators have so far been unable to end the standoff, raising the prospect of a battle there over the weekend.

The Interpol notices, which were requested by the International Criminal Court at The Hague based on allegations of war crimes committed by the three men, require any of Interpol's 188 member nations to arrest the suspects and turn them over to the court.Among the member nations is Niger, which borders Libya on the south and has received a number of convoys of loyalist officials fleeing overland. So far, no high-ranking figures in the former government have been confirmed to be accompanying them.

Yesterday, 14 Gaddafi loyalist officials arrived in the northern Niger city of Agadez, including Gen. Ali Kana, who is said to be a Tuareg in charge of Colonel Qaddafi's southern troops, according to a Reuters report.

Tuareg tribesmen, who live on both sides of the Libya-Niger border in the Sahara, have been major supporters of the Gaddafi government.

The group also included another general, Ali Sharif al-Rifi, the commander of the Libyan air force, and two other top officials, who were said to be staying at the Etoile du Ténéré hotel in Agadez, according to the news agency. The hotel is said to be owned by Gaddafi.

Niger's justice minister, Marou Amadou, confirmed that the two generals were in Agadez and were "being well guarded" but were not "in a building belonging to the state."

Gaddafi "is a fugitive whose country of nationality and the International Criminal Court want arrested and held accountable for the serious criminal charges that have been brought against him," said Interpol's secretary general, Ronald K. Noble, in a written statement.

"Interpol will cooperate with and assist the ICC and Libyan authorities represented by the interim Transitional National Council of Libya" to apprehend him.

Arresting Colonel Qaddafi "is a matter of time," the Interpol statement said, quoting the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo. who had requested the Interpol action on Thursday.

Late last month, two of Gaddafi's sons and his second wife fled to Algeria, which granted them asylum on humanitarian grounds, leading to vigorous criticism from Libyan rebel leaders. Algeria is also one of Interpol's member countries, as are all of Libya's neighbours.

Residents of Tripoli planned to converge on Martyrs' Square yesterday night to protest against people who had supported Gaddafi until the very end and then switched sides.

Protesters who gathered in the late afternoon said they did not want such people to retain or gain positions in government.

"Where, where is he?" chanted hundreds of doctors and nurses in hospital scrubs and the colours of the Libyan flag, taunting Gaddafi as they marcheds toward the square.

The doctors carried signs with pictures of other doctors and medical workers killed during the rebellion. They also objected to the Transitional National Council's Minister of Health, Naji Barakat. They said he was a holdover from Gaddafi's time and that he was still acting as authoritarian as before.

Barakat could not be reached for comment, but transitional council officials have said many of Gaddafi's officials had been retained until a new government had been formed to keep essential services functioning.

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