Algeria: Gadhafi's daughter gives birth

AP News
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Posted: Aug 30, 2011 4:46 PM
Algeria: Gadhafi's daughter gives birth

Hunted throughout her homeland and forced to flee into exile across a dangerous desert border, the daughter of ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi paused somewhere in the Sahara to have a baby.

The dramatic birth of Gadhafi's granddaughter after her mother and other relatives escaped Libyan territory into Algeria, lends a human dimension to the dictator's downfall and the ongoing mystery of his whereabouts.

The birth in exile was disclosed by the Algerian Health Ministry on Tuesday.

Algeria's U.N. Ambassador Mourad Benmehidi said in a letter to the Security Council obtained by The Associated Press that at 8:45 a.m. local time Monday two vehicles, a bus and a Mercedes entered Algerian territory from Libya carrying Safiya Gadhafi, her daughter Aisha, sons Hannibal and Mohammed, and their children. Benmehidi said one child "was born the same day at the border without medical assistance."

The Health Ministry earlier said that Aisha Gadhafi gave birth to a girl on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear which day was correct.

Benmehidi said the country allowed them to enter the country for "humanitarian considerations." Algerian news reports had said Aisha's pregnancy was one reason for Algeria's controversial decision to take the family in.

An Algerian newspaper reported that the exiles, who also included an unknown number of Gadhafi's grandchildren by his eight children, had waited 12 hours to receive authorization to cross the Algerian border from President Abdelaziz Bouteflika _ while Aisha was in labor.

The whole party is now wanted by Libya's new rulers. Libya's interim government criticized Algeria's decision to take in Gadhafi's fleeing wife and children, and demanded that Algiers hand them over for trial in Libya.

Algeria has a nearly 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) border with Libya. The arid, dusty desert is the backdrop for suspected weapons smuggling by militants with ties to Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, as unlikely a spot as any for the emergency child birth by the only daughter of Africa's longest-ruling dictator.

Libya's rebel leadership demanded Tuesday that Algeria return Gadhafi's wife and children for trial, accusing Algeria of an "aggressive act." The departure of Gadhafi's family was one of the strongest signs yet that he has lost his grip on Libya after 42 years in power.

Aisha Gadhafi is a lawyer in her mid-30s who helped in the defense of toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the trial that led to his hanging. She is reported to already have three children, making Tuesday's birth her fourth.

She had cultivated an image of caring about ordinary Libyans, but neighbors said she had razed a local clinic to make room for her luxurious home.

Until her father unleashed a bloody crackdown on Libyan demonstrators, Aisha had been for two years a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Development Program. She had been appointed to the post in 2009, to focus on U.N. anti-poverty goals, especially combatting HIV/AIDS and violence against women.

The young mother had hurriedly fled her mansion in Tripoli, just hours ahead of advancing Libyan rebels. Rebels trashed and looted her home and those of her siblings.

Aisha lived in a two-story mansion with an indoor pool and sauna, where DVDs included action and mystery films, but also one on getting back in shape after childbirth.

The presence of small children was felt everywhere in the house. A large play room was strewn with toys. Party hats and streamers were in a pile in an entrance hall, and her library contained a number of children's books.

Signs of the Gadhafi family's exorbitant wealth were also everywhere, including Aisha's Bohemian crystal glasses and a brown Dolce & Gabana leather jacket of one of her children.

Earlier Tuesday, an Algerian newspaper reported that the government has moved to partially close Algeria's southeastern border with Libya after members of Gadhafi's family fled across it. The El-Watan daily cites unidentified diplomatic officials Tuesday as saying security forces have been deployed to shut the border.

The Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry would not comment on the newspaper report.

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Keller reported from Paris. Sarah DiLorenzo and Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report.