The son of ousted Libyan tyrant Muammar Gaddafi has been intercepted after a convoy of nine people crossed the border into Niger, Libya's southern neighbour.
Whilst the western world marked the 10-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks on Sunday, news emerged that Saadi Gaddafi, the 38-year-old son of the ousted dictator, had been discovered within a convoy which had fled across Libya's southern border into Niger and was heading in the direction of Agadez, which continues towards the capital Niamey. US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that Nigerien authorities "are either in the process or have already brought him to the capital of Niamey and intend to detain him."
This has raised questions concerning what will happen to him. Niger officials have previously stated that they would respect their commitments to the International Criminal Court and hand over anyone whom they captured and was wanted by the court. However, whilst Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam are wanted, the court has not put out a warrant for Saadi, nor has it for several other senior figures who have been detained in Niger, including the commanding generals of Gaddafi's air force and southern troops. Nigerien cabinet director Massaoudou Hassoumi said that they were currently being detained "on humanitarian grounds", but that they would not be able to "detain them over nothing". Nuland has stated that dialogue between Niger and the National Transitional Council of Libya (NTC) is being encouraged and that it would be up to the latter to decide on appropriate action.
It is believed that Niger has become the only option for Libyan loyalists to flee to following the collapse of the regime. After Gaddafi's wife and several children managed to escape west to Algeria, the NTC moved to prevent further loyalists escaping, and fleeing east to Egypt is near impossible due to the need to travel through NTC-controlled territory. The northern border is water and so is not an option and Chad to the south-east has proved difficult to cross into, leaving Niger to the south-west as the only option. In addition to this, Niger's immense northern desert has proved impossible for the country's army to patrol, and has previously been utilised by drug smugglers and al-Qaida terrorists. Last Thursday, Muammar Gaddafi issued a defiant message in which he denied rumours that he himself has fled to Niger. He has not been seen in public for months, but this message is believed to have come from within Libya.
Saadi Gaddafi was described by the US Embassy in Tripoli in a cable released by Wikileaks:
"Saadi has a troubled past, including scuffles with police in Europe (especially Italy), abuse of drugs and alcohol, excessive partying, travel abroad in contravention of his father's wishes"
The cable also notes his brief career as a professional footballer ("he enjoyed a single season with Perugia in Italy's Serie A league") and how he trained as an engineer, but then notes that "Saadi's focus has drifted from soccer to the military". As NTC soldiers stormed his home on the Mediterranean after entering Tripoli they also found evidence of his love of spending. Four cars were found; a BMW, an Audi, a white Lamborghini and a Toyota; as well as catalogues for yachts and cars, including a yellow handwritten post-it note attached to one listing the price for a 30-meter-long yacht as 7 million euros.