Libya’s new rulers have no proof of the arrest of Muammar Qaddafi’s spymaster Abdullah al-Senoussi, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said on Tuesday.
“At that stage they were not able to confirm that Senoussi was in anybody’s custody,” Rice said in the eastern city of Benghazi on the sidelines of an official visit to Libya.
“So that’s the last I’ve heard on that point,” she added, a day after holding talks in Tripoli with the head of the National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdel Jalil and interim Prime Minister Abdul Rahim al-Keeb.
NTC officials and military commanders had said Senussi was captured on Sunday at his sister’s home in the southern Libyan region of Al-Guira where he had been apparently hiding.
But on Monday prime minister designate Keib said earlier that he needed to check whether Senussi had indeed been captured before he could confirm it, casting doubt on whether the former spy chief had in fact been captured.
Reports of his capture came a day after Libya’s new rulers announced with much fanfare the arrest on Saturday of Qaddafi’s prominent son Seif al-Islam, after three months on the run.
Video footage showing Seif’s capture has been widely publicized but there have been no pictures of Senoussi following his reported arrest.
On Tuesday the head of the military council of the southern Wadi Shati region, where Al-Guira is located, insisted in remarks to AFP that Senussi was in custody.
“According to my sources he has been arrested and is being kept in a secret place to protect his life,” said Bashir Uweidat.
Senoussi was in the southern Sabha region, he said, without providing further details.
“He is alive and will not be killed,” added Uweidat.
But he admitted that he has not laid eyes on Senoussi since his reported arrest.
Uweidat was among the first officials to announce the capture of Senoussi on Sunday.
“We had doubts about his presence in the region. He was arrested in his sister’s home in Al-Guira and did not put up any resistance,” Uweidat said at the weekend, on the sidelines of a military conference in Benghazi.
“He will be handed over to the competent authorities,” he said, adding that Senoussi had some personal weapons in his possession.
NTC vice chairman and official spokesman Abdel Hafiz Ghoga also confirmed the arrest during a news conference on Sunday, as did another senior NTC official.
Senoussi, a brother-in-law of Libya’s slain dictator, is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for what it alleges was his “crucial” role in crushing the country’s popular revolt that ended Qaddafi’s regime.
In 1999, a Paris court sentenced Senoussi in absentia to life for his alleged involvement in an attack on a French UTA airliner a decade earlier that killed 170 people.
On Monday France said it wanted to try Senoussi again for the airliner bombing in Niger.
“A trial in the presence of the accused should be held in France,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.
“Senoussi must be judged for the crimes he has committed,” Valero said, adding that Paris would consult the various legal entities to ensure he is held accountable for the UTA bombing.