Fresh Reports Suggest Top Qaddafi Officials Escaped to Niger

The State Department doesn't think the convoy included Qaddafi himself

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Reports this morning speculated that a Niger-bound convoy of Libyan Army vehicles included fleeing Qaddafi fighters and possibly even Muammar Qaddafi himself along with his son Saif al-Islam, who might have been seeking asylum in nearby Burkina Faso. More recent reports indicate that while the ousted Libyan leader may not have been part of the caravan, many of his senior officials were. The State Department believes the convoy carried top members of Qaddafi's regime but not Qaddafi himself, and is urging the government of Niger to detain the Libyan officials. Libya's transitional leaders tell the AP that Qaddafi's "most hardcore backers"--including personal security chief Mansour Dao--have fled to Niger from the loyalists' remaining strongholds in Libya. Niger's minister of internal affairs confirmed that the country granted asylum to Qaddafi's internal security chief, Abdullah Mansoor, on humanitarian grounds, but denied reports that a large convoy had entered the country.

The AP observes that a flight by top regime figures "could reduce backing for Qaddafi among residents and open the door for an end to the standoff." But Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth says the situation could also be complicated diplomatically if some of these officials are wanted by the International Criminal Court. "If #ICC suspects are in convoy, Niger has duty to arrest under both ICC treaty & UN Security Council resolution 1970," he tweets.

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