Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Max Rossi/Files)
TRIPOLI/AGADEZ - Scores of Libyan army vehicles have crossed the desert frontier late Monday into Niger in what may be a dramatic, secretly negotiated bid by Muammar Gaddafi to seek refuge in a friendly African state, military sources from France and Niger told Reuters on Tuesday.
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The convoy of between 200 and 250 vehicles was given an escort by the army of Niger, an impoverished and landlocked former French colony to the south of Libya, and might, according to a French military source, be joined by Gaddafi en route for neighboring Burkina Faso, which has offered him asylum.
It was not clear where the 69-year-old former leader was. He has broadcast defiance since being forced into hiding two weeks ago, and has previously vowed to die fighting on Libyan soil.
Earlier on Monday, Gaddafi's spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said that the Libyan leader is in good health and in good spirits somewhere in
is in a place that will not be reached by those fractious groups, and
he is in Libya," Moussa Ibrahim told the Syrian-owned Arrai TV in
response to a question on the whereabouts of the Libyan leader ousted by
rebels last month.
Saif al-Islam, the heir apparent before the uprising which ended his
father's 42 years of personal rule two weeks ago, also was considering
joining the convoy, the French source added. France played a leading
role in the war against Gaddafi and such a large Libyan military convoy
could hardly have moved safely without the knowledge and agreement of
NATO air forces.
Sources told Reuters that France may have brokered an arrangement between the new Libyan government and Gaddafi.
But a spokesperson for the French foreign ministry in Paris could not
confirm the report of the convoy's arrival in the northern Niger desert
city of Agadez nor any offer to Gaddafi, who with Saif al-Islam is
wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court
at The Hague.