Tripoli, March 23: Government sources in Nouakchott have claimed that secret negotiations are underway underway between the Mauritanian and French governments . . .[restrict]to transfer Qaddafi’s intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi to France.
On Wednesday, the Libyan government said that Mauritania had promised to hand over Senussi to Libya. He was arrested at Nouakchott airport early last Saturday in what now appears to have been an entrapment operation involving both French and Mauritanian intelligence services.
The source said that the French authorities made their request to the Mauritanians before Senussi’s arrest. In 1999, a French court convicted him in absentia for the 1989 bombing of a UTA plane flying over Niger in which 170 people died.
The source said that Senussi is now being guarded by anti-terrorist unit of the Mauritanian Security Service.
When Senussi was arrested he had flown in on a Royal Air Maroc plane from Casablanca. The Mauritanian authorities said at the time he was in transit to Mali, but a somewhat different story now seems to be emerging.
According to sources in the Mauritanian News Agency, Abdullah Senussi had been in Mali but had gone to Morocco and had lived in Casablanca with his son with the full knowledge of the Moroccan intelligence.
The sources say that Rabat kept quiet about Senussi’s presence for fear that it would put it on a collision course with Libya. The presence of members of the Qaddafi family in Algeria has continued to plague the two countries’ relations.
They claimed that French intelligence became aware that Senussi was in Casablanca but that the Moroccan government refused to allow the French to arrest Senussi or interrogate him on its territory.
The sources claimed that Paris and Nouakchott then agreed to lure Senussi to Mauritania by convincing him that he would be safe there. They say that when Senussi flew to from Casablanca to Nouakchott he was accompanied by elements of the Mauritanian security and met by the officers of the state security apparatus at Nouakchott airport. It was only then that the trap was sprung.
Mauritanian news sources say that the Mauritanian government has not questioned Abdullah Senussi so far. They claim that the process of transferring him to France may occur in the next few days.
Sources in the Mauritania news agency say that Mauritanian President Ould Abdel Aziz feels that Libya is still a fragile country and not able to give Senussi a proper and fair trial.