TRIPOLI,(AP) — Mauritania said Saturday it arrested former Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senoussi, who was one of the most prominent figures from the ousted regime of Moammar Gadhafi and is wanted by the International Criminal Court.
Al-Senoussi helped direct efforts to quash the rebellion against Gadhafi’s rule last year, and the ICC has indicted him along with Gadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam, on charges of crimes against humanity.
Mauritania’s state information agency said in a statement that al-Senoussi was arrested at the airport in the capital Nouakchott upon arrival from the Moroccan city of Casablanca. It said he was carrying a fake Malian passport.
Libyan Foreign Ministry spokesman Saad al-Shilmani said the arrest was not confirmed.
As Gadhafi’s regime crumbled in the second half of 2011, many of the dictator’s inner circle reportedly fled from advancing rebels toward the Sahara, where the regime had long cultivated ties with desert groups both in Libya and in neighboring countries.
Gadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam was arrested in November by fighters in Libya’s remote southern desert. He has been held largely without access to the outside world ever since and Libyan authorities say they want to put him on trial at home, despite an arrest warrant issued by the ICC.
Some Libyan officials reported at the time that al-Senoussi had also been captured and was being held in the southern city of Sabha. But some later cast doubt on that assertion, and his whereabouts have not been known — a reflection of the confusion in post-Gadhafi Libya, where “revolutionary militias” hold local control in many towns and cities with little accountability to the Tripoli government.
Al-Senoussi, Gadhafi’s brother-in-law, was also one of six Libyans convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison in France for the 1989 bombing of a French passenger over Niger that killed all 170 people on board. The French government has previously asked that he be handed over to France.
Judges at the Netherlands-based ICC issued an arrest warrant for al-Senoussi last June on two counts of crimes against humanity — murder and persecution — for allegedly masterminding attacks on civilians in the early days of the uprising that eventually toppled Gadhafi from power.
If al-Senoussi is handed over to the Hague-based court, he would be the first suspect indicted for alleged atrocities in Libya to be taken into custody.
The court also indicted Gadhafi himself, he the ousted leader was killed by rebel fighters in October. Libyan authorities say they want to put Seif al-Islam on trial at home instead of turning him over him to the court.