Agence France Presse
Friday 9 July 2004
Last Update 9 July 2004 12:00 am
LIBREVILLE, 9 July 2004 — Libya has given rebels in northern Chad 48 hours to hand over a group of Algerian extremists or face military action, but a rebel spokesman said yesterday they would not be turned over.
“The Libyan secret service gave us 48 hours to hand over the Salafist prisoners ... or said we will suffer the full wrath of Libya’s armed forces,” Aboubakar Radjab-Dazi, a spokesman for the rebel Movement for Democracy and Justice in Chad (MDJT), told AFP in Libreville by phone.
The Libyan secret service made the threat in a phone call to MDJT leader Hassan Abdallah Merdigue, said Radjab-Dazi. “We have no intention of meeting this ultimatum,” said the MDJT spokesman.
“I place little weight on these Libyan threats,” he said, adding: “This is a daily occurrence. For a simple yes or no, the Libyans threaten us.”
Meanwhile, MDJT rebels in their stronghold of Tibesti in the mountainous extreme north of Chad said they saw “troop movements on the other side of the border” with Libya, as well as “movements by the Chadian army,” said Radjab-Dazi.
The MDJT has claimed since mid-March that it held members of Algeria’s Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), captured in Chad’s mountainous, desert northern Tibesti region.
The GSPC has become the main extremist group in Algeria’s Islamist rebellion that has left some 150,000 people dead since 1992. It was allegedly founded on the instructions of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
Last year, it kidnapped 32 Europeans trekking in the North African country’s desert. One of the hostages, a German woman, died during her captivity. In late May, the MDJT said it was holding talks with officials in Algiers about handing over its GSPC captives. Then, on Monday, Radjab-Dazi said the MDJT had delivered two GSPC members to the Libyan authorities.
A senior member of a radical Algerian Islamist group, Amari Saifi, also known as Abderrezak “the Para”, was alleged to have been among them.
Saifi has since September 2003 been the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by Germany in connection with the kidnapping of the European tourists.
Libya was serving as an intermediary in the deal and was supposed to hand the men on to “a third country” that was looking for them. The MDJT claims Libya did not do this.
“Libya said it captured two people after fighting at the Chad-Libya border, but this is not true. These are two people who we handed over to the Libyan authorities,” Radjab-Dazi said.
“Libya played the role of mediator with third countries but did not respect its commitment. Now they’re at us again ... what right have they to meddle in Chadian affairs?” he said.
Radjab-Dazi said the MDJT had cool relations with Tripoli which it suspected of being responsible for the death in September 2002 of the MDJT’s founder Youssouf Togoimi.
In March an African diplomat in Mali said: “It is becoming clearer and clearer that for several weeks Abderrezak has been held by an armed group which could well be the MDJT.” And German federal prosecutors said in May that Saifi had been detained in Chad along with one other person.