“These people should not be allowed to get away with the crimes they have committed,” said Jalal al-Gallal, a spokesman for the rebels’ Transitional National Council. “Neighboring countries should not be allowed to provide safe haven to these criminals.”
Saadi’s escape came as fighters remain stalled outside Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte, as well as Bani Walid, a bastion of the Wafala tribe, which is largely loyal to the Gaddafi regime, and the southern desert town of Sabha.
With Gaddafi still at large, Libyan rebel leaders are concerned that he also could try to escape across the same border. Libya’s porous southern border is vast, and the rebels have little control over the territory. A delegation was sent to Niger last week to urge officials there not to let wanted members of Gaddafi’s family and his regime find haven in their country, Gallal said.
“Those who cross into other territories must be immediately detained in preparation for their return to Libya,” Gallal said.
Frustration over escapes
Niger’s justice minister told reporters at a news conference that Saadi was found by soldiers patrolling in the Sahara on Sunday, according to the Reuters news agency. An arrest warrant has been issued for Gaddafi and another son Saif al-Islam, but not for Saadi.
Saadi’s arrival in Niger marked the third convoy of regime loyalists who have passed into the country in the past week.
“He was in a convoy of nine people. They were intercepted heading in the direction of Agadez,” said Marou Amadou, the justice minister, referring to the northern Niger town where the two previous convoys had stopped. Amadou said Saadi was expected to be sent to the capital, Niamey, on Monday or Tuesday, but it was unclear whether Niger planned to extradite him to Libya.
Last month Gaddafi’s wife Safia, daughter Aisha and son Mohammed escaped to Algeria.
Saadi, a former professional soccer player, had been trying to negotiate an end to the war between Gaddafi loyalists and opposition forces. But it appeared that his father never intended to surrender. As Saadi called for negotiations this month, his brother Saif al-Islam and his father called for a fight to the death.
One senior rebel council official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said rebel fighters and military commanders were growing frustrated with Libya’s new political leadership for giving so much time to Gaddafi’s last bastions to surrender, while top officials and his family members continue to escape.
The battle for the remaining Gaddafi strongholds began Friday night but quickly stalled, with opposition fighters still on the outskirts of the three towns, facing fierce resistance.