NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania (AP) — The man accused of having helped orchestrate some of the worst crimes committed by the regime of ex-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has been extradited back to Libya, according to a Mauritanian government statement.
The communique carried by national radio and on Mauritania’s official news agency said Abdullah al-Senoussi, who ran Gadhafi’s feared intelligence service, was sent back to Libya, giving no further details. An official in the ministry of foreign affairs, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, said that al-Senoussi boarded a special flight at 9 a.m. local time (0900 GMT) and was headed to Tripoli.
Libya, the International Criminal Court as well as France had all asked to try the former intelligence chief, who is known as Gadhafi’s "black box." He is accused of complicity in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, as well as the Abu Salim prison massacre of more than 1,200 prisoners by Gadhafi’s regime in 1996.
Al-Senoussi was arrested at Mauritania’s international airport in March, where he showed up disguised as a Tuareg chieftain, wearing flowing robes and a turban. He was traveling on a fake passport. For months, Mauritania resisted calls to hand him over, insisting that their laws had been violated and that he should be tried on Mauritanian soil.
Oriane Maillet, a spokeswoman for the international tribunal in The Hague, said the court has received no information yet from Libyan authorities on the transfer of al-Senoussi, but stressed that an international arrest warrant has been issued for him based on ICC charges.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who led a delegation to the region, told reporters in Tripoli earlier this year that the U.S. had a "particular interest (in seeing him arrested) because of his role with the Lockerbie bombing."
The airplane bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland killed 270 people.
France also lobbied to get custody of al-Senoussi. He was one of six Libyans convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison in France for the 1989 bombing of a passenger jet over Niger that killed all 170 people on board, including 54 French people.
In Mauritania, the ministry official said that a delegation arrived from Libya Monday night, and included the country’s minister of finance and justice minister. They overnighted in Mauritania. He said the government officially handed over Senoussi to the Libyan minister of justice on the tarmac of the Mauritanian airport. A Libyan jet had been sent to extradite the ex-spy chief.
Al-Senoussi had spent his five-month-long incarceration in Mauritania in a private villa, the official said. He was allowed to exercise, watch TV, read the international press and receive visits from his nephew, said the official.
A baggage handler at the airport who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter said that al-Senoussi was not handcuffed when he was brought out. He said he looked healthy and in good spirits as he walked up the ramp to the plane.
Al-Senoussi is known as Gadhafi’s "black box," because of his closeness to the ex-leader and his knowledge of the regime’s alleged abuses.