ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — 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, less than 24 hours 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, but an official with the ministry would provide no other information, including exactly where the delivery occurred. The official was not authorized to be publicly named according to ministry rules.
Gadhafi’s only biological daughter, Aisha had fled with Gadhafi’s wife Safia, and two of her brothers, Hannibal and Mohammed, entering southern Algeria from the Libyan border Monday, the Algerian Foreign Ministry said. 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.
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 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.
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.
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