Mauritania 'hands over Gaddafi spy chief'

TRIPOLI - Mauritania has handed Libya's former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi over to the Libyan authorities, state media say.

Libya wants to try Mr Senussi for crimes allegedly committed during his time as Col Gaddafi's right-hand man. He is also wanted by France and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Mauritania previously said Senussi must first face charges of illegal entry.

He fled Libya after last year's uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.

He was arrested on arrival in Mauritania, sparking repeated requests from the Libyan government for his return.

The report of his extradition was carried by state TV and the state news agency in Mauritania. There has so far been no confirmation from the Libyan authorities.

"He was extradited to Libya on the basis of guarantees given by Libyan authorities," a Mauritanian government source told Reuters news agency, without giving details.

According to the reports, Mr Senussi was delivered to an official Libyan delegation headed by the minister of justice.

In the six months since Abdullah al-Senussi was arrested in Mauritania, there has been a tough fight over where he should be brought to justice.

As intelligence chief to former Libyan leader Col Gaddafi, Senussi is accused of playing a part in the bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, the bombing of a French airliner over Niger, and crimes within Libya including the notorious massacre at Abu Salim prison.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague claims jurisdiction, as do the French, and the Americans have an interest in bringing him to justice as well. But it appears that the Libyan authorities have won the battle to bring him to court.

The decision by Mauritania to send Senussi back to Libya is a particular blow to the ICC. It must make it even less likely that the court will win its fight to try Col Gaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam, at The Hague.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says that, if confirmed, Mr Senussi's extradition to Libya will be a blow for the ICC.

Not only has the court been trying to win custody of Mr Senussi, he says, it is also arguing that Col Gaddafi's son Seif al-Islam should also be brought to justice at the court.
Massacre

It is not known if he is still in the country although one official quoted by AP news agency said the former spy-chief left Mauritania on Wednesday on a Libya-bound flight.

In March, Mr Senussi was arrested at Nouakchott airport in Mauritania after flying in from Morocco. He was disguised as a Tuareg chieftain and was carrying a fake passport.

He was later charged with illegally entering the country and using forged documents, and transferred to the civilian prison in Nouakchott.

In June 2011, the ICC issued a warrant for Mr Senussi for crimes against humanity alleged to have been carried out in Benghazi, the main base of the Libyan opposition during the revolt last year.

France has already sentenced Mr Senussi to life imprisonment for the shooting down of a UTA airliner over Niger in 1989 in which 170 people were killed.

He has been accused of various human rights abuses including his alleged role in the 1996 massacre of more than 1,000 inmates at the Abu Salim prison in Tripoli.
Abdullah al-Senussi with Col Gaddafi in 2009 Abdullah al-Senussi was one of Col Gaddafi's closest confidants

He is alleged to have ordered guards standing on grated ceilings above the inmates to fire down on them, after riots broke out over demands for better food and conditions.

Mr Senussi is also believed to have information about Libyans kidnapped and assassinated abroad during Gaddafi's rule, and the financing of terrorist organisations, especially in Africa.

Investigators in the US and UK also believe he may have further knowledge about the 1988 airliner bombing over Lockerbie in Scotland in which 270 people died.

Earlier this year, US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who led a delegation to the region, said Washington had a "particular interest" in seeing Mr Senussi arrested "because of his role with the Lockerbie bombing".

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