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Gaddafi’s son said to be hiding in Sahara Desert

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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 his whereabouts.

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-Qaida 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-Qaida 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-Qaida.

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. (AP)

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