As Libya's transitional leadership tries to persuade tribal leaders in Bani Walid to surrender the desert town peacefully, several news agencies are reporting a new wrinkle in the effort to wipe out the last vestiges of the Qaddafi regime: anywhere from 50 to 250 Libyan Army vehicles have crossed over Libya's southern desert border into Niger, heading first to the town of Agadez and then to the capital, Niamey. What was the mysterious convoy carrying? That's a matter of dispute.
Reuters, citing anonymous military sources from France and Niger, claims the convoy, which was escorted by the army of Niger, may represent a "dramatic, secretly negotiated bid" by Muammar Qaddafi" and his son Saif al-Islam to seek refuge in neighboring Burkina Faso, which has offered the ousted Libyan leader asylum while simultaneously recognizing the rebel National Transitional Council as Libya's new government. The news agency, however, hasn't received any confirmation that Qaddafi or his son crossed the border. (On Sunday, the head of Qaddafi's security brigades, Mansour Dhao, crossed into Niger along with other Libyan officials. Reuters adds that "such a large Libyan military convoy could hardly have moved safely" into Niger "without the knowledge and agreement of NATO air forces," suggesting that "France may have brokered an arrangement between the new Libyan government and Qaddafi." An NTC spokesman in Tripoli added that Qaddafi has a history of traveling around Libya with 200 armored vehicles.