Gaddafi remembered at prayers in Mali

A portrait of Col Gaddafi at a mosque in Mali
Image caption Col Muammar Gaddafi brokered a peace deal in Mali

Thousands of Muslims in Mali's capital, Bamako, have held a special prayer service for killed ex-Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi.

A huge of portrait Col Gaddafi hung at the entrance of the city's main mosque, hailing him as a visionary.

The mosque's imam said Col Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam should be welcomed in Mali if he sought refuge there.

Mali's government opposed the conflict in Libya, saying it could destabilise the region.

But it says it will hand Saif al-Islam to the International Criminal Court (ICC) - which wants to try him for crimes against humanity - if he is found in Mali.

'Children blessed'

The BBC's Martin Vogl in Bamako says about 5,000 people were at the prayers.

The congregation hailed Col Gaddafi as a visionary and a great African leader, he says.

Earlier this week, hundreds of people in Agadez in northern Niger held a similar prayer service in memory of Col Gaddafi and asked God to bless his children, the Reuters news agency reports.

The ICC says it has had informal contact with Saif al-Islam, who managed to escape when his father and brother, Mutassim, were killed last week.

Recent reports claimed he was in a convoy heading toward Libya's desert border with Niger, where other allies of Col Gaddafi have fled.

Col Gaddafi had strong support among ethnic Tuaregs in Mali and Niger.

Col Gaddafi backed Tuareg rebels demanding greater autonomy, before brokering peace deals between them and the governments in Niger and Mali.

Many Tuaregs fought on Col Gaddafi's side, as he tried to repel the Nato-backed offensive to overthrow him.

Earlier this month, the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad rebel group emerged in Mali.

It said it would absorb Tuareg fighters returning from Libya.

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