Nigeria says location of war crimes indictee Taylor unknown

[JURIST] A spokesman in Nigeria for former Liberian president Charles Taylor [BBC profile] said Monday that his whereabouts are unknown, after Nigeria indicated over the weekend that Liberia could take Taylor into custody [JURIST report] to stand trial for war crimes charges [indictment]. Taylor is wanted in Sierra Leone for charges that he backed rebel leaders in exchange for diamonds and he is expected to be hiding in the southeastern Nigerian city of Calabar. The lead prosecutor against Taylor said he requested Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo [official website] to arrest Taylor before he could escape, but a spokesperson for Obasanjo said that no such request had been received.

The UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website] on Sunday called on the Nigerian government to hand Taylor over [JURIST report] before he flees Calabar, but Obasanjo's spokesman said the president is not aware of Taylor's location and will respond if he receives a formal request by the prosecutor for his capture. Taylor fled Liberia in 2003 as part of a deal to end the country's 14-year civil war [Global Security backgrounder] which affected several countries including Sierra Leone. Reuters has more.

4:41 PM ET - According to information from former SCSL Chief of Investigations Alan White received by JURIST late Monday, the word from West Africa is that Taylor has left Calabar and could be heading to Equatorial Guinea or the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Benjamin Yeaten, former director of Liberia's Special Security Service [Global Security backgrounder] under Taylor, spends time. White suggests Nigeria will blame Taylor's departure on Liberia's failure to arrest him in a timely manner.

6:10 PM ET - The US Monday urged Nigeria to hand Taylor over to Liberia for trial. A State Department spokesman said [briefing transcript]:

He needs to be brought to justice. We've made that clear. I understand that the international court, as well as the Nigerian Government and the Liberian Government, are working on the modalities of the handover of Charles Taylor to see that he faces justice. It is incumbent upon the Nigerian Government now to see that he is conveyed to the international court. Obviously, we have talked to President Obasanjo about this...

Right now we have made clear both in public and in private to the Nigerians that it is their responsibility to see that he is able to be conveyed and face justice, so that would be the Nigerian Government's responsibility. I know that he is in Nigeria at the current time. I can't tell you what his current status is, where in the country he may find himself.
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