Niger welcomes Libyans on humanitarian grounds

September 7, 2011 - 3:10 PM

NIAMEY, Niger (AP) — Niger's government said Wednesday it is "welcoming on humanitarian grounds" a group of 13 Libyans who arrived in a convoy but confirmed that ousted strongman Moammar Gadhafi is not among them.

It said it was acting in consultation with the Libyan rebel National Transitional Council.

The Libyans "must refrain from taking any action" or attitudes not compatible with those humanitarian conditions, said a statement released Wednesday after a Cabinet meeting headed by President Mahamadou Issoufou.

It said its actions were taken "in the interest of Niger and in regular consultation with officials of the National Transitional Council," the de facto government of Libyan rebels that Niger has recognized as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people.

The statement did not identify any of the Libyans. But other Niger officials have confirmed that senior members of Gadhafi's regime led by his own security chief crossed from Libya into neighboring Niger on Tuesday.

The Cabinet statement said the first party arrived in three vehicles carrying 14 people including 4 Niger citizens and a fourth vehicle later arrived with four people including one Niger citizen. It said there was no convoy of 200 vehicles, as had been reported by some media.

Customs official Harouna Ide told the AP that Mansour Dao, Gadhafi's security chief, had arrived along with Tuareg rebel leader Rissa ag Boula and other Tuaregs from Niger who had gone to Libya to fight for Gadhafi.

The United States on Tuesday urged Niger authorities to detain any individuals who may be subject to prosecution in Libya; confiscate their weapons; and impound any state property — such as money or jewels — that were illegally taken out of the country.