Official: Gadhafi's son nearing Niger border

October 25, 2011 - 3:40 PM

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Moammar Gadhafi's son and one-time heir apparent is now believed to be heading toward the West African nation of Niger, where his brother and dozens of Gadhafi regime members already have sought refuge, a government official said Tuesday.

Rissa ag Boula, an adviser to Niger's president and an elected member of the regional council of Agadez, told The Associated Press that he was in touch with the ethnic Tuaregs who are helping guide Seif al-Islam Gadhafi. The ethnic Tuaregs were among Gadhafi's strongest supporters and fought to keep him in power.

"If he comes here, the government will accept him, but the government will also need to respect its international obligations. It's up to him to decide (whether to stay on the run or come to Niger)," Boula said.

Boula said that Seif al-Islam, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, appeared to be poised to cross into Algeria in order to make his way to Niger. It would be the same route that his brother al-Saadi Gadhafi and more than 30 other Gadhafi loyalists had used in September.

Niger's government has said that members of the Gadhafi regime seeking refuge in the West African nation will not be turned back to Libya without guarantees for their safety.

Al-Saadi Gadhafi and several others considered key regime figures have been placed under house arrest in Niger's capital in a gated compound. The others are also under surveillance but are allowed to leave their villas, Niger's government said.

Unlike his brother who is already in Niger, Seif al-Islam is one of two surviving regime figures that is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity committed during Libya's protracted battle for power.

Because of its large Tuareg population, Niger was among the last countries to recognize the country's new leaders. Mosques and hotels throughout Niger were built by Gadhafi and he remains deeply popular in the nation, making it a natural sanctuary for fleeing members of his inner circle.