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Al-Senussi: do they or don’t they have him? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- There is a growing controversy over the truth about the arrest of Abdullah al-Sansui, brother-in-law of late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and former chief of the Libyan intelligence. However, Abdullah Ahmad Nakir, head of the Tripoli Council of Revolutionaries, revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat for the first time that Al-Sansui has indeed been arrested and that he is in the hands of the revolutionaries in a safe place. Nakir however refused to disclose where Al-Senussi is being held because of what he described as security considerations and fear of security breaches.

According to revolutionaries’ leaders, Al-Senussi was arrested in southern Libya by elements of the “Jahfal Fazzan Brigade.” He was hiding at his sister’s house in Al-Qirah area, 100 kilometers north of Sabah and 500 kilometers south of the capital Tripoli.

Despite announcements by officials of the National Transitional Council [NTC] and military and security commanders of the revolutionaries that Al-Senussi has indeed been arrested, NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdel-Jalil announced that there was no tangible evidence about Al-Senussi’s arrest. Dr Abdul-Rahim al-Kib, prime minister of the new Libyan government, also agrees with Abdel-Jalil’s statement.

Abdullah Nakir confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the news of Al-Senussi’s arrest was certain, noting that his arrest would be announced at the proper time. He added: “He (Al-Senussi) has indeed been arrested and is in under the control of the revolutionaries’ council, but because of security and military instability in the south, where he is currently under arrest, we have reservations about announcing details.” He added: “We fear security breaches; do not forget that this criminal assumed the post of head of Gaddafi’s intelligence apparatus. He has enormous amounts of funds and can attempt to bribe some people and flee. A similar incident happened before the fall of Gaddafi’s regime when we failed to keep Gaddafi’s eldest son, Muhammad, who managed to flee after his arrest due to the chaos and commotion that prevailed during his arrest.” In his statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Nakir said: “We will announce the arrest of Al-Senussi at the proper time. There are currently numerous dangers.”

In reply to a question about the nature of these fears, Nakir said: “We fear that some people may assassinate Al-Senussi to avenge his dirty role against the Libyan people’s revolution, and for being one of the major criminals of Gaddafi’s regime for more than four decades.”

According to Nakir’s exclusive statement to Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone from Tripoli, at least one attempt was made to move Al-Senussi from his current place of arrest to a safer place. The attempt failed because the plane came under attack at the last moment. He added: “A plane was scheduled to take him to Al-Zantan, but as soon as it landed, it came under fire and so we decided to cancel the operation. We will try again when the security situation becomes more stable. We will move him to Al-Zantan as we did with Gaddafi’s second son, Saif al-Islam.” He said: “Bringing Al-Senussi to Al-Zantan is just a matter of time, no more no less. The world will see him soon in our hands; this is for sure.”

Many may not believe that the man who was notorious for his cruelty and carnage in dealing with Gaddafi’s regime’s oppositionists has at last been in the hands of the revolutionaries. After eight months of bitter struggle, the revolutionaries managed to topple Gaddafi’s regime in a successful end of a popular revolution that erupted against him on 17 February. Some believe that the arrest of Al-Senussi is tantamount to the real declaration of the fall of Gaddafi’s regime. In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Abdel-Munim al-Huni, representative of the TNC to Egypt and the Arab League, said: “Yes, this is the official day of the fall of the former regime. This criminal is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Libyans. He was the dirty hand of Gaddafi.” Al-Huni, who one day was one of those whom Al-Senussi was seeking to assassinate because of suspicion of his loyalty to Gaddafi’s regime, said: “This criminal’s hands are stained with the blood of our people, and every Libyan citizen has a personal vendetta against him. He is the most important black box in Gaddafi’s regime. He is perhaps the father of all black boxes in view of the role he played in serving his master.”

Gaddafi did indeed rely on Al-Senussi in all the dirty missions assigned to the Libyan intelligence apparatus, particularly in pursuit and liquidation of opponents to Gaddafi’s regime, who were previously called “the stray dogs.” Al-Senussi, who is nearly 62 years old, was not an ordinary official or mere government official in Gaddafi’s regime. He was the “shadow” of Gaddafi and the primary confidante. His status placed him in a position as one of the most senior officials in charge of the era in which Gaddafi ruled Libya from 1969 until 2011, more than 42 years. He accompanied Gaddafi not only because he was his brother-in-law, but as one of the officials in charge of Gaddafi’s security and of his domestic and foreign intelligence agencies.

The man who was known to the Libyan people as “the executioner,” in view of the dirty and bloody missions he carried out to serve Gaddafi’s regime, is now in the hands of the revolutionaries. They are eager to bring him to justice as soon as possible to reveal all the facts and pending mysterious cases that Gaddafi’s regime left behind. Like any pharaoh who needed someone to undertake the mission of a henchman, Al-Senussi was indeed more than a henchman to Gaddafi in Libya. Perhaps because of his great importance to the revolutionaries, some fear the prospect of his getting killed before he is safely put in the dock for trial. Al-Senussi was very closely tied to Gaddafi, accompanying him wherever he went, just as the famous tent that Gaddafi used to take with him in his travels in Libya and abroad.

When the Libyan people rose up in Benghazi in the eastern part of Libya on 17 February, Al-Senussi was prepared to confront them. He drew up a plan seeking the help of mercenaries from around the world. He also ordered the pro- Gaddafi security forces to be in a state of alert. He gave them official orders to open fire at any demonstrator who dared declare his rebellion against the regime. However, the Libyans, who took to the street shouting for the first time their demands that Gaddafi step down, had indeed broken the barrier of fear and proved again that the security solution was not valid to confront the revolt of the angry masses.

Al-Senussi wagered on the Libyan people’s cowardice, but the people surprised him by their legendary steadfastness in confronting a fierce machine of suppression, which, regrettably, matched the war machine that the Israeli occupation army uses against Palestinian civilians. Al-Senussi’s plan to quell the popular revolution failed. However, he did not retreat or give in. He persisted in killing and torturing the unarmed people who took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations brandishing to Gaddafi “the red card.” They demanded that he leave the field after the match was over, a match that continued for four decades and was played by one party without the participation of the people.

Al-Senussi was not known to be an academic or even an educated man, and may, as some say, have never read a book in his life. He was in Gaddafi’s loop because of the in-law’s relationship. He featured prominently in the political scene for enough decades to make the Libyans eager to bring him to court millions of times for his crimes against them.

Prior to the fall of Tripoli and the revolutionaries’ storming of Gaddafi’s stronghold at Bab al-Aziziyah barracks end of August, Al-Senussi appeared on the official Libyan television to repeat the refrain that Gaddafi had reiterated, making absurd accusations that Al-Qaeda and extremist Islamic groups were trying to seize power. Al-Senussi disappeared after the revolutionaries stormed Tripoli in August although he appeared on television just two weeks earlier to deny that he was wounded in an attack, which was claimed by one of the armed Libyan groups before the fall of Tripoli.

Al-Senussi had rarely made speeches or held news conferences. Yet he broke this rule after the popular revolution erupted against Gaddafi, levelling direct accusations at French President Nicolas Sarkozy of direct interference in Libyan domestic affairs. He also claimed to have handed funds to officials in Sarkozy’s election campaign leading to his victory in the election.

Al-Senussi is married to the sister of Safiyah Farkash, Gaddafi’s second wife. Libyan oppositionists used to describe him as “Gaddafi’s eye, ear, and right hand in tightening security and control of the country. The revolutionaries say that he was responsible for the excessive cruelty and carnage in which the Libyan authorities dealt with the protests that erupted on 17 February 2011, demanding the overthrow of Gaddafi and his regime.

Al-Senussi held several high-level security and military posts that put him in the circle of the closest people to Gaddafi. He was one of “the men of the tent,” the expression that was usually given to the most trusted men by the former regime. He was assigned several sensitive security missions, including chief of the foreign security apparatus, military intelligence, and what was known in Libya as “Al-Katibah” battalion, the apparatus assigned the tasks of protecting Gaddafi, which represented the suppressive face of the regime in the country. It is believed that this apparatus was behind the liquidation of a number of oppositionists in Libya and abroad.

Al-Senussi faces several serious charges, most importantly is, perhaps, responsibility for one of the most heinous local tragedies that occurred at the Abu Salim Prison. He is accused of perpetrating that massacre in June 1996 in which approximately 1,200 prisoners, mostly political prisoners, were killed by bullets in response to their protest against the bad conditions in the prison.

Al-Senussi had strongly opposed Gaddafi’s regime’s release of the Islamist detainees after they made a review of their ideology and declared their renunciation of violence. In addition, Libyan human rights organizations accused him of the killing and disappearance of numerous political oppositionists at the time he was chief of the internal security apparatus in the early 1980s.

Al-Sansui is well known to the Western intelligence agencies. A French court sentenced him [in absentia] to life in prison for his possible involvement in the bombing of a UTA airliner in 1989, which left approximately 170 people dead. That incident led to the issuance of an international arrest warrant against him, and he was banned entry into most EU countries. A confidential US cable published by WikiLeaks described him as Gaddafi’s shadow, who supervised all his personal arrangements, including his medical appointments. It also said that he suffered from severe phobia.