Johannesburg: A fugitive wanted by the
International Criminal Court, Muammar Gaddafi`s one-time heir
apparent appears to have disappeared in the Sahara Desert`s
ocean of dunes and could remain hidden for months in an area
more than twice the size of Texas.
Seif al-Islam Gaddafi may be plotting a
counterrevolution, scheming about a getaway to a friendly
country, or negotiating a surrender to the ICC. Nothing has
been heard of him since sources on Oct 28 said Tuareg nomads
were escorting him the length of Libya and that he was close
to the Mali border.
"My latest information is that they are not in Mali and
they are not in Niger yet either," Malian legislator Ibrahim
Ag Mohamed Assaleh said this week, adding to the mystery of
Gaddafi, a 39-year-old British-educated engineer, could
be deliberately feeding disinformation from a desert where
national boundaries are unmarked and unpoliced and where
smugglers and Al Qaeda gunmen roam freely.
Analyst Adam Thiam, a columnist for Le Republicain
newspaper in Mali, said life in the desert for long periods
outside of isolated oases is nearly impossible, but that a
zone in Mali has water and animals.
However the area is used by Al Qaeda in the Islamic
Maghreb, an extremist group which has "no love of the Gaddafi
family," Thiam said. Gaddafi violently repressed Libya`s own
Islamist movement and was a longtime enemy of Al Qaeda.
Gaddafi and his late father`s former chief of military
intelligence, Abdullah al-Senoussi, have reportedly been
travelling in separate convoys escorted by Tuaregs, the hardy
nomads 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 southwest 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 against Muammar Gaddafi.
More than a dozen countries in Africa don`t 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.
Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, wanted for genocide and
war crimes committed in Darfur, attended a conference in
Malawi last month with no problem, though Malawi is a member
of the ICC.
In the area where Gaddafi is believed hiding, only
Algeria is not a signatory.