Officials in the North African nation of Niger said Sunday that one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons had fled across the Libyan border into their country.
Niger's justice minister, Marou Amadou, told reporters that Saadi Gadhafi was intercepted by local troops after he entered the country through Libya's southern desert border as part of a convoy.
Saadi, Gadhafi's third son, had an unremarkable professional soccer career in Europe before returning to Libya to head a military battalion. Late last month, after the fall of Tripoli, there were reports that Saadi was attempting to negotiate between Gadhafi loyalists and the rebels.
Unlike his brother Saif, the International Criminal Court has not issued a warrant for Saadi's arrest. The rebels, however, are expected to demand that he be extradited back to Libya to face criminal charges.
Since last week, several convoys carrying senior officials of the former Libyan regime, as well as civilians and soldiers, have made their way across the porous border into Niger. Among them were several of Gadhafi's top military officers, including his chief of security, and the head of his southern command.
Meanwhile, the rebels said they were making progress against one of the last cities that remain in the hands of forces loyal to Gadhafi.
The rebels have been trying to gain control of Bani Walid for almost a week. Fighters said they had grabbed control of the north side of the city but still hadn't been able to push into the center of town.
Bani Walid, about 90 miles southeast of Tripoli, is a desert enclave of about 100,000 residents.
The rebels tried for much of last week to get Bani Walid to surrender. When that didn't work, revolutionary fighters attacked in pickup trucks, but were quickly repelled by heavy weapons fire and Grad missiles.
NATO bombed loyalist positions in the area on Saturday and rebels were able to tighten their perimeter around the town in an offensive on Sunday.
NATO, which has played a key role in decimating Gadhafi's forces over the six-month Libyan civil war, said Sunday its jets hit a tank, two armored vehicles and a multiple-rocket launcher the day before near Bani Walid. Airstrikes also pounded targets around Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, and the towns of Waddan and Sabha in the southern desert, NATO said.
The rebels' gains have prompted a return of foreign diplomats to the capital, Tripoli, three weeks after Gadhafi's fall.
Turkey, Egypt and Italy are all flying their flags again outside their embassies. The U.S. said it is sending a small diplomatic mission to solidify ties with the new government. The U.S. Embassy was looted and destroyed by pro-Gadhafi forces soon after the Feb. 17 uprising began.
Libyan fighters swept into the capital, Tripoli, on Aug. 21, effectively bringing an end to Gadhafi's nearly 42-year rule.
NPR's Corey Flintoff and Jason Beaubien contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press.
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