A large convoy of Libyan soldiers loyal to ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi crossed the desert border into Niger and rolled into the frontier town of Agadez late Monday, a resident who is the owner of a local newspaper said, amid reports that the effort to track down Gaddafi is being led by competing factions of military commanders and bounty hunters.
The convoy consisted of more than a dozen pickup trucks bristling with well armed Libyan troops, said Abdoulaye Harouna, the owner of the Agadez Info newspaper, who saw them arrive, The Associated Press reported.
At the head of the convoy, he said, was Tuareg rebel leader Rissa ag Boula, a native of Niger who led a failed war of independence on behalf of ethnic Tuareg nomads a decade ago. He then sought refuge in Libya and was believed to be fighting on behalf of Gaddafi.
It was not immediately clear if the convoy included any members of the Gaddafi family or other high level members of his regime.
“I saw an exceptionally large and rare convoy of several dozen vehicles enter Agadez from Arlit… and go towards Niamey,” an AFP source said. “There are persistent rumors that Gaddafi or one of his sons are travelling in the convoy,” the source said.
A journalist from a private radio station in Agadez said he saw “a convoy of several dozen vehicles crossing the city and heading towards Niamey,” the Niger capital.
The journalist said several people reported seeing in the convoy Rhissa Ag Boula, a figurehead Tuareg rebel in Niger who is close to Gaddafi.
The toppled Libyan leader is known to have used battalions of Tuareg fighters who have long-standing ties to Gaddafi. His regime is believed to have financed the Tuareg rebellion in the north of Niger.
African nations where Tuaregs represent a significant slice of the population, like Niger, have been among the last to recognize the rebels that ousted Gaddafi. AFP