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Gaddafi's spy chief 'in Niger'

Ex-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's intelligence chief, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, has slipped into the desert nation of Niger and is hiding in the expanse of dunes at the Niger-Algeria border, a Niger presidential adviser said today.

The adviser, who could not be named, told The Associated Press by telephone from Niger that Abdullah al-Senoussi entered the country several days ago in a convoy piloted by Tuaregs, the traditional desert dwellers who remained fiercely loyal to Gaddafi until the end.

The official, himself an influential leader of the Tuareg community, said he is in touch with Tuaregs who are in contact with the convoy.

Al-Senoussi is one of two surviving members of the Gaddafi regime who are the subjects of international arrest warrants.

The other is Gaddafi's son and heir-apparent Saif al-Islam, whom the official said is also in the area, but is still in the triangle of sand just north of the Niger border, between Libya and Algeria.

"Senoussi? He's already in Niger, but he's not near the towns," the official said. "Where is he headed? We don't have any details on that. In any case, he can't come to the towns (without getting caught). He entered sometime ago - it's been a few days. He's hiding. His driver? Other Tuaregs," he said. "They (Senoussi and Saif al-Islam) are travelling in separate convoys."

The information was confirmed by Serge Hiltron, owner of Radio Nomad, a radio station operating in Niger's north, a region dominated by the Tuaregs.

"It's like the story of the cat and the mouse, and we're waiting for him (al-Senoussi) to come out of his hole. He can't stay there forever," Mr Hiltron said by telephone from the northern town of Agadez.

"For them (al-Senoussi and Saif al-Islam) the area that is safest is this buffer zone between Algeria, Libya and Niger - it's the most secure. But they can't stay there forever. With the protection of the Tuaregs they can last a while though."

Niger's government spokesman was not immediately available for comment. His assistant, communications adviser Ousmane Toudou, said there had been no official statement.

The Tuaregs in Niger as well as in Mali have led repeated rebellions against the governments of those countries which were reportedly financed by Gaddafi.

During the drawn-out battle for control of Libya, hundreds of Tuareg youth from both Mali and Niger enlisted in Libya's army to try protect the leader's grip on power.

Niger's government has publicly said it will abide by its obligation to the International Criminal Court and hand over any members of the Gaddafi regime wanted for war crimes.

The country's democratically elected government is heavily dependent on foreign aid, but its people have long supported Gaddafi.

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