Pro-Gadhafi Convoy Heads Toward Niger Capital

Posted September 6th, 2011 at 8:25 am (UTC-5)
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A convoy of at least 200 vehicles carrying forces loyal to Libya's Moammar Gadhafi has crossed into neighboring Niger, as anti-Gadhafi fighters continue to mass outside one of the ousted leader's last strongholds.

Reports from Niger Tuesday said the military vehicles were heading towards the capital, Niamey, after moving into Niger late Monday. The capital is in the country's southwestern corner near Burkina Faso, where officials offered Mr. Gadhafi asylum about two weeks ago.

The head of Mr. Gadhafi's security brigades and several other Libyans crossed into Niger hours ahead of the convoy.

Mr. Gadhafi's whereabouts are still unknown. It is not clear whether any of his relatives or officials from his government are among those who entered Niger, or whether they might join the convoy later.

The French news agency reported Tuesday that Niger's foreign minister has denied reports Mr. Gadhafi is in the convoy.

Meanwhile, more anti-Gadhafi reinforcements have joined thousands of fighters outside the Libyan city of Bani Walid ahead of a Saturday deadline for pro-Gadhafi holdouts there to surrender.

Negotiators for Libya's provisional authorities have been talking with tribal elders and pro-Gadhafi forces from Bani Walid, one of three remaining bastions of the ousted leader.

The city is dominated by Libya's largest tribe, the Warfalla, which helped anchor Mr. Gadhafi's nearly 42-year rule. However, many of the anti-Gadhafi fighters encircling the town are also Warfalla members.

Officials from Libya's National Transitional Council say at least two of the former leader's sons took refuge in the city in recent days. Mr. Gadhafi's spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, is still believed to be there, and the former leader's most prominent son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, has reportedly fled Bani Walid for the southern deserts.

The NTC is focused on the city, about 170 kilometers southeast of Tripoli, because witnesses last saw members of Mr. Gadhafi's inner circle fleeing there.

While officials in Burkina Faso have offered refuge to Mr. Gadhafi, they also have recognized the NTC as the legitimate government of the Libyan people.