Interpol alert over Gaddafi

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Interpol today issued a worldwide alert against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and 15 of his close associates as the international community continued to ratchet up the pressure on the Libyan dictator.

The international police agency's "orange notice" describes the regime figures as individuals who have been identified "as being involved in or complicit in planning attacks, including aerial bombardments, on civilian populations".

They include seven of his sons, among them Saif, and his daughter Aisha, as well the defence minister, the head of external security, the director of military intelligence and Gaddafi's head bodyguard.

The alert is intended to help ensure police authorities in Interpol's 188 member states enforce the international travel bans and asset freezes imposed by the United Nations Security Council.

The move comes as it was confirmed that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) had seized a ship heading for Tripoli packed with £100 million of Libyan banknotes.

The vessel was escorted by the UKBA cutter HMC Vigilant into the port of Harwich, Essex, on Wednesday where the UKBA took control of its cargo, moving a number of containers to a secure location.

Chancellor George Osborne said he had been receiving daily updates on the progress of the ship which had been monitored by the British authorities for the past week.

"The financial net is now closing in on Colonel Gaddafi and we are denying him access to banknotes, access to bank accounts, making sure that he is held accountable for what is taking place in Libya and also denied the means to persecute his own people," he told the BBC.

It is understood the ship was intercepted after it returned to British waters following an abortive attempt to dock in the Libyan capital over the weekend.

The Treasury has already blocked one cargo of £900 million of Libyan banknotes, which are printed in the UK, from leaving as well as freezing bank accounts belonging to Gaddafi.

Interpol secretary general Ron Noble said that the agency's constitution provided it with a "clear mandate for the widest possible co-operation" by law enforcement authorities to prevent serious human rights abuses.

"As a first priority, we must work to protect the civilian populations of Libya and of any country into which these Libyan individuals may travel or attempt to move their assets," he said.

He said that Interpol's secure global communications system and databases would give law enforcement agencies instant access to the information they need to act.

Interpol, which is based in Lyon, France, was also ready to assist the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court in his investigation into Gaddafi and his inner circle for crimes against humanity, he added.

Meanwhile International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, who is in Tunisia, announced the UK was stepping up its assistance to refugees stranded in camps on the border after fleeing the violence in Libya.

A pair of British logistics experts have been sent to help relieve pressure at the small airport of Djerba, which has become the hub for incoming humanitarian supplies as well as floods of people trying to get out of the country.

It was confirmed that the 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, which has been put on standby to assist with humanitarian relief and evacuation operations remains on 24 hours notice to move.

It also emerged that the Foreign Office was looking at the possibility of sending a diplomatic team into the eastern city of Benghazi to establish direct contact with the rebels who control the city.

There is also concern within Whitehall to find out what is happening in the west of Libya where it is thought the heaviest fighting has been taking place. The regime has denied access to the Red Cross and aid agencies and officials have little idea of the situation on the ground.