As rebel forces focus their manhunt for fugitive leader Moammar Gaddafi on Libya’s desert triangle, a large convoy of more than 200 armored vehicles has reportedly crossed into Niger in what is thought to be a plan to find Gaddafi asylum in neighboring Burkina Faso.
Reuters reports that military personnel from France and Niger said the convoy — which carried the head of Gaddafi’s security brigades, Mansour Dhao, along with more than 10 other Libyans and cash and gold — was escorted by the Niger army into the northern desert town of Agadez on Monday.
The French military individual told Reuters that Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam might join the convoy on its way to Burkina Faso, which already has offered them asylum.
The reports could not be independently confirmed.
The convoy’s arrival comes just days after Gaddafi’s wife and three of his children fled to Algeria, and it makes Burkina Faso at least the third African country to offer Gaddafi, his family or loyalists asylum.
Regional relations help explain why these three countries are keen to take in the world’s most wanted man.
1. Burkina Faso
A landlocked West African state, Burkina Faso has long been a recipient of large amounts of Libyan aid.
While it had been hesitant about taking sides, and even recognized the rebel Transitional National Council as Libya’s official government, Burkina Faso now says it would take the deposed leader.
“In the name of peace, I think we will take, with our partners in the international community, whatever steps are necessary,” Yipene Djibril Bassolet, Burkina Faso’s foreign minister, said Monday.
First Post also reports that the country’s president, Blaise Compaore, is a former student of the World Revolutionary Center, a training camp for violent dissidents founded by Gaddafi in the 1980s.
During a Washington Post interview conducted at a rebel-run jail in Libya in July, detainees said as many as half the forces deployed by the Gaddafi regime come from countries like Niger.
If true, Niger may have provided mercenaries because Gaddafi has long provided his southern neighbor with aid donations and military assistance. And while Libya claims part of northern Niger as its own, it has not put a damper on their good relations.
Algeria said it chose to shelter members of the Gaddafi family for “humanitarian reasons,” as Gaddafi’s daughter Aisha had given birth as the family fled.
“The Libyans themselves … asked us to consider them as Algerians,” Algeria Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia had said.
But Algeria and Libya have always been close. According to the Library of Congress, Libya’s “closest Maghribi bilateral relationship” is with Algeria. In May, it was reported that high-ranking members of Algeria’s ruling party traveled to Libya to voice unconditional support for the party.