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Archive for Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mauritania arrests ex-top Libyan official

March 17, 2012

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— Mauritania on Saturday arrested Moammar Gadhafi’s former intelligence chief, accused of attacking civilians during the uprising in Libya last year and the 1989 bombing of a French airliner. The International Criminal Court, France and Libya all said they want to prosecute Abdullah al-Senoussi.

Mauritania’s state information agency said in a statement that al-Senoussi was arrested at the airport in the capital Nouakchott upon arrival from the Moroccan city of Casablanca. It said he was carrying a fake Malian passport.

A spokesman for Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council, Mohammed al-Hareiz, confirmed that the ex-intelligence chief had been captured by Mauritian officials.

As Gadhafi’s regime crumbled in the second half of 2011 after more than four decades of rule, many of the dictator’s inner circle fled from advancing rebels toward the Sahara, where the regime had long cultivated ties with desert groups both in Libya and in neighboring countries.

A Libyan military official said al-Senoussi, who is also Gadhafi’s brother-in-law, likely fled to Chad just before the opposition captured the capital Tripoli in October and passed through Mali and Morocco before heading to Mauritania. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the details.

Some Libyan officials reported last year that al-Senoussi had been captured and was being held in the southern city of Sabha. But some later cast doubt on that assertion, and his whereabouts have not been known — a reflection of the confusion in post-Gadhafi Libya, where “revolutionary militias” hold local control in many towns and cities with little accountability to the Tripoli government.

In October, a Western diplomatic official in Mali’s capital, Bamako, said that al-Senoussi was in Mali and that the French government was taking the lead in hunting him down. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to the press.

The Libyan government said in a statement Saturday it has requested from Mauritian officials that the spy chief be handed over to them for trial, but the line to prosecute al-Senoussi is long.

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