Fresh from the battle to take Tripoli, fighters from Libya’s opposition have set up camp on the outskirts of Bani Walid. The town is a stronghold of former leader Muammar Gaddafi, and the hunt is on to find him.
Officials say a large military convoy seen crossing the Niger border may have included Gaddafi seeking refuge in a friendly neighbouring state. Local Tuareg tribesmen on both the Libyan and Nigerien sides of the border have said a 10-truck convoy was carrying gold and cash.
“We hope will will arrest him,” said one rebel fighter outside Bani Walid. “But if he stays in a neighbouring African country, he will cause a lot of trouble for Libya. But where can he go? There is no way out. He will be arrested wherever he goes.”
Among the fighters, there are those who think the intelligence about Gaddafi’s flight is true. “I think the latest information about him is right,” said one, “because of the geography of the area, it is one of the few places he can get to. We hope he will be arrested, and if he has crossed into Niger, I feel sorry for the people of that country.”
Sources say the convoy was given an army escort through Niger, a former French colony. French military sources say it could be en route for Burkina Faso, which has offered him asylum.
Niger’s foreign minister has denied reports Gaddafi had arrived in his country; officials in Paris say they cannot confirm the convoy’s arrival in Niger, nor reports of any deal with Gaddafi.