Saturday 20 January 2018

Libyan defector linked to terrorism across Europe

Robert Winnett in Tripoli

BRITISH Prime Minister David Cameron was under pressure last night to ensure that the Libyan defector who arrived in Britain earlier this week co-operates with authorities investigating the Lockerbie bombing, links to the IRA and the murder of Pc Yvonne Fletcher.

Moussa Koussa, the Libyan foreign minister, who fled to Britain on Wednesday, is described as having "electrifying" information on Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's role in terrorist atrocities across Europe.

As well as Lockerbie, officials are keen to question Mr Koussa about links to the IRA. Col Gaddafi is widely suspected of supplying arms to the terrorists at the height of IRA's bombing campaign in the 1980s.

Mr Cameron said he would not block any attempts by the police to question Mr Koussa.

Mr Cameron stressed that Mr Koussa had not been offered a deal in return for fleeing to Britain and had not been granted immunity from prosecution. But if the defector is arrested and charged with crimes, it may undermine attempts by Western governments to encourage others in Col Gaddafi's inner circle to flee from Libya, a key aim of diplomatic efforts.

Mr Koussa may also be reluctant to co-operate fully with British officials if he is not given guarantees about his future.

The Scottish prosecuting authorities investigating the Lockerbie bombing formally requested access to Mr Koussa, a right-hand man to Col Gaddafi for more than 30 years who was likened to Rudolf Hess by a Conservative MP.

International prosecutors investigating war crimes in Libya are also expected to seek interviews with him. The Libyan rebel leadership demanded his return to face war-crime charges.

Mr Koussa, who was previously in charge of the Libyan intelligence service, has been described as the "master of terror" who was previously expelled from Britain for endorsing the assassination of dissidents in London. Western intelligence has linked him to planning the Lockerbie bombing. in 1988 and the bombing of a disco in Germany, as Gaddafi's regime wrought havoc across the world.

Meanwhile, Libyan rebels have accused Colonel Gaddafi's forces of travelling disguised as civilians to escape attack by coalition warplanes which had been destroying tanks and armoured vehicles.

The rebels say they have been ambushed several times by soldiers, often wearing civilian clothing, travelling in unmarked pickup trucks.

Colonel Frosh al-Bushal, a military officer who defected to the rebels, said his men had been ambushed as they approached Brega early in the day, only to pull back.

He said: "They are using them so we don't notice them and the planes don't notice them." A similar ambush occurred outside Binjawwad on Tuesday.

Government forces yesterday consolidated their gains at Brega after rebels had been in full retreat the previous day.

The infectious fear of the rout had subsided and rebel forces lounged in the sun on the roadside at their front line around 30 miles west of Ajdabiya.

Throughout the day, the two sides largely kept at rocket range of about 20 miles with occasional salvos landing in the desert to either side of the road. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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