Senussi, who for decades before the late dictator’s fall inspired fear and hatred in ordinary Libyans, is sought by the Hague-based International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity during last year’s conflict. But Libya’s new rulers insisted he would have a fair trial there, while France - confirming it played a role in his arrest - stressed his alleged role in the 1989 bombing of an airliner over Niger in which 54 French nationals died.
“Today we confirm the news of the arrest of Abdullah al-Senussi,” Libyan government spokesman Nasser al-Manee told a news conference in Tripoli.
“He was arrested this morning in Nouakchott airport and there was a young man with him. We think it is his son,” he said, confirming a Mauritanian state news agency report that Senussi had been arrested with a false Malian passport arriving from Casablanca, Morocco.
France, which led Western backing for the popular uprising that toppled Gaddafi, said it had cooperated with Mauritanian authorities over the arrest and that it would be sending an arrest warrant to Mauritania. A statement from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office noted Senussi had been sentenced in absentia for the 1989 bombing of a UTA airliner, in which 170 people were killed. Families of the victims immediately demanded he face justice in France.