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Niger Denies Gadhafi and Sons Sought Refuge

A large convoy of Libyan soldiers accompanied by Tuareg tribal fighters are reported to have moved towards the capital of neighboring Niger, although it is not clear of Gadhafi family members were among the heavily armed group.

A Niger government official is denying reports that deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and some of his sons are seeking refuge in the West African country.

The former Libyan leader had close working diplomatic relations with Niamey during his four-decade rule.

The official, Justice Minister Marou Amadou, denied speculation the former Libyan leader financed the ruling Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS-Tarayya) campaigns, both in the general and the presidential run-off votes.

“It’s absolutely false,” said Amadou. “When we started having elections in this country, Gadhafi himself was [facing] problems with the rebellion. So I think they [Niger opposition] had to say something.”

Amadou said his administration has appealed to the international community to help with growing humanitarian problems facing Niger.

“The challenges that we have in the north of our country are known. It’s the challenge with security and humanitarian problem,” said Amadou. “So, really these are problems that we have to face. But, I can say the situation is under control.”

Niger’s government says an estimated 211,000 citizens have so far returned home after fleeing the conflict in Libya.

They have come home to food shortages and a fragile economy.

Last week, residents in northern Niger expressed concern that hundreds of Tuaregs from Libya are returning home with sophisticated weapons. The Tuaregs are suspected of being part of the Libyan army and loyalists who fought for deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Security experts warn the proliferation of arms could destabilize the region.

Amadou acknowledged that his government faces “real” humanitarian and security threats, due to what he said is the influx of Libyans fleeing the conflict.