Gaddafi son eyes safety, talks to Hague

Fri Oct 28, 2011 1:47pm EDT
 

By Aaron Gray-Block

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - From deep in the Sahara, fearing that he will share his father's bloody fate at the hands of vengeful Libyans and calling in old favors bought with oil from desert tribes and African strongmen, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi may be bartering a future.

The International Criminal Court at The Hague confirmed on Friday that the 39-year-old heir-apparent to Libya's slain former leader had been in touch. It urged him to turn himself in, warning it could order a mid-air interception if he and his mercenary guards tried to flee by plane for safe haven abroad.

Though details remain sketchy of the whereabouts and state of mind of Saif al-Islam, the London-educated would-be reformer now indicted for crimes against humanity, the ICC offered some corroboration of reports from Tripoli's new leaders and African neighbors that he has taken refuge with Tuareg nomads in the borderlands between Libya and Niger, seeking a way to safety.

"Through intermediaries, we have informal contact with Saif," ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement.

"We have learnt through informal channels that there is a group of mercenaries who are offering to move Saif to an African (state) not party to ... the ICC. The Office of the Prosecutor is also exploring the possibility to intercept any plane within the air space of a state party in order to make an arrest."

Officials with Libya's National Transitional Council told Reuters earlier in the week that monitoring of satellite calls and other intelligence indicated Saif al-Islam was considering turning himself in to The Hague, and trying to arrange an aircraft to get him there and out of reach of NTC fighters, in whose hands Muammar Gaddafi was beaten and killed a week ago.

DESERT FRIENDS

However, surrender is only one option. The Gaddafis made friends with desert tribes in Niger, Mali and other poor former French colonies in West Africa, as well as farther afield in countries like Zimbabwe and Sudan, some of them also recipients of largesse during the 42-year rule of Colonel Gaddafi, a self-styled son of the desert and African "king of kings".   Continued...