Gaddafi intelligence chief held in secret

Last Updated: Monday, November 21, 2011 - 23:09

Zintan: Moammar Gaddafi`s captured intelligence chief is being held at a highly secret location deep in Libya`s southern desert because of possible threats to his life, a government spokesman said Monday.

Abdullah al-Senoussi, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands and by France, is being held in the city of Sabha by revolutionary fighters who captured him on Sunday, said Hmeid al-Etabi, a local spokesman for Libya`s new leadership. But the prisoner`s precise location must be kept secret, he said.

"The revolutionaries have created a total media blackout on his whereabouts because so many people want him dead," al-Etabi said.

Fighters from another faction in Libya`s western mountains are holding the other high-level detainee captured over the weekend, Gaddafi`s son Saif al-Islam, whose convoy was swarmed by militiamen in the southern desert on Saturday. They are also keeping him in a secret location and refusing to hand him over to national authorities in Tripoli.

The inability of the National Transitional Council to have either detainee brought to the capital has added to doubts about its control over the fractured country after the fall of Gaddafi`s 42-year rule in August and his capture and death last month.

Saif al-Islam and al-Senoussi are both wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, on charges of crimes against humanity for the brutal crackdown on dissent as the uprising against the regime began in mid-February and escalated into a civil war.

Libyan authorities, however, have said they will try Saif al-Islam at home, even though they have yet to establish a judicial system. They have not said whether they might be willing to extradite al-Senoussi, who was captured to the south of the city of Sabha, 400 miles (650 kilometers) south of Tripoli.

Al-Senoussi, Gaddafi`s brother-in-law, was also one of six Libyans convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison in France for the 1989 bombing of a French passenger over Niger that killed all 170 people on board.

The French government said Monday it wants al-Senoussi to be brought to France. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said his government was in talks with "relevant jurisdictions" to ensure that he is held to account.

The prosecutor at the Netherlands-based ICC, Luis Moreno Ocampo, is to travel to Libya this week for discussions on where the trial of Saif al-Islam will be held.

The court`s spokesman, Fadi El Abdallah, said Sunday that Libya would have to convincingly lay out its arguments that it will have a solid legal system capable to giving him a fair trial.

Saif al-Islam was once the face of reform in Libya and led his father`s drive to emerge from pariah status over the last decade, but he staunchly backed his father in his brutal crackdown on rebels.

Al-Senoussi also helped direct efforts to quash the rebellion.

Reflecting the confusion over the two prisoners, Libya`s interim prime minister, Abdurrahim el-Keib, said at a news conference Monday that he was not even 100 percent sure of al-Senoussi`s capture.

"Before I confirm that to you I need to confirm for myself that he was really captured," he told reporters after meeting with the United States` ambassador to the UN.

Ambassador Susan Rice was visiting Tripoli for talks that were expected to include the capture of the two men.

The director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Yves Daccord, said the group is in talks with authorities in Libya to visit detainees including Saif al-Islam. He told reporters in Geneva that the ICRC expects to soon be able to visit him.

Saif al-Islam is being held in the small town of Zintan in Libya`s western mountains by the fighters who seized him on Saturday. The fighters had tracked him for two days to the southern desert and flew him back to Zintan, 85 miles (150 kilometers) southwest of Tripoli.

On Sunday, the fighters holding Saif al-Islam posted a video of him on YouTube. In the clip, he appeared in good health and said an injury to his hand was the result of a NATO airstrike a month ago that struck his convoy in Wadi Zamzam, about 90 miles (140 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli. He said 26 people were killed in the strike.

Immediately after his capture, photos surfaced of him with two fingers and the thumb of his right hand in bandages, raising questions about whether he was mistreated by his captors.

Bureau Report



First Published: Monday, November 21, 2011 - 23:09

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