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Niger arrests Tuareg rebel who fought for Qaddafi

AghalyAlambo

Sept. 13, 2011: Tuareg rebel chief and Gadhafi insider, Aghaly Alambo speaks to Associated Press during an interview in Niamey, Niger. (AP)

A Tuareg rebel leader who belonged to Muammar Qaddafi's inner circle and who led the last Tuareg uprising in the West African nation was arrested overnight in Niger's capital, a family member said Wednesday.

Aghaly Alambo led a Tuareg rebellion against the government of Niger from 2007 to 2009. The peace accord was brokered by Qaddafi. After the end of the fighting, Alambo exiled himself to Tripoli, where he became one of Qaddafi's trusted aides, staying at his side until just before the fall of the capital last year.

Ahmad Ahlawey, a relative of Alambo's, told The Associated Press by telephone that the rebel leader was called in to see a judge late Tuesday. After an interrogation lasting several hours, Alambo was transferred to the Niamey prison, the relative said. His arrest was confirmed by parliamentarian Moussa Saidou.

Ahlawey said the government is accusing Alambo being linked to an explosives-loaded three-car convoy that was stopped trying to cross into Niger from Libya recently. Security forces in Niger discovered 1,320 pounds of explosives inside, said Ahlawey. The incident, and Alambo's alleged link to it, has not been discussed by the government.

When he returned to Niger last September, Alambo became an adviser to the head of the National Assembly. But his relationship to the government he once tried to overthrow always remained touchy.

It was his Tuareg kinsmen who helped ferry Qaddafi's son and three of his generals across the desert border to Niger late last year, setting off an international incident.

The escapees have been placed under house arrest, but it's put Niger in a tough spot. The north of Niger is overwhelmingly Tuareg, an ethnic group that feels a special affinity for Qaddafi, who glorified their desert culture by erecting his nomadic tent on the grounds of five-star hotels. They have pushed Niger to protect Qaddafi's relatives.

At the same time, Niger's democratically elected government has recognized the new Libyan leadership, which has repeatedly asked for Qaddafi's entourage to be turned over for prosecution.