Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Gaddafi son 'hiding in desert'

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was reportedly escorted by nomads near the Mali border one week ago (AP)

Muammar Gaddafi's son appears to have disappeared in the Sahara desert and could remain hidden for months as the International Criminal Court and Libya's new rulers argue about who should try him.

Nothing has been heard of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi since sources said almost a week ago that Tuareg nomads were escorting him and that he was close to the Mali border.

Mali legislator Ibrahim Ag Mohamed indicated Saif Gaddafi is not in Mali or Niger.

He could be feeding disinformation as he considers his options out in the desert, a place that is impossible to police and favoured by other outlaws like drug dealers and al Qaida fighters.

Various sources indicate he could be plotting a counter-revolution, scheming about a getaway to a friendly country, or negotiating his surrender.

Gaddafi and his late father's former chief of military intelligence, Abdullah al-Senoussi, have reportedly been travelling in separate convoys escorted by Tuaregs, who understand best how to survive in the desert.

Loyalty to the ethnic group trumps nationality, and the Tuareg's traditional stomping grounds stretch across North Africa, from Morocco and Algeria to Libya and south west to Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad.

Gaddafi and al-Senoussi are both wanted by the ICC for allegedly organising and ordering attacks in Libya that killed civilians during the revolt.

More than a dozen countries in Africa do not recognise the international court, but even some that do ignore its arrest warrants amid criticism that the Hague-based court goes after a disproportionate number of Africans.

In the area where Gaddafi is believed hiding, only Algeria is not a signatory. Algeria was a staunch supporter of Muammar Gaddafi and has given refuge to his wife, a daughter and two other sons, but now is trying to establish ties with Libya's new leaders.

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