Investigators searching for missing American pilot Jerry Krause have made contact with local tribal leaders in Libya seeking help to track him down, DailyMail.com has learned.
Leaders of the Tuareg tribe, who run the remote airport near Ghat where Krause was last pinpointed, have assisted the American team in finding the pilot who vanished without trace in West Africa five years ago.
Krause, originally from Waseca, Minnesota, was at the controls of a routine flight from South Africa to Mali where he was working as a missionary on April 7, 2013 when he disappeared.
The last message from his Beechcraft 17 1900C 17-seat passenger plane was to a control tower on the tiny island of São Tomé, saying he was nine miles from its shore. Then he vanished – apparently without trace.
But Krause’s family first told DailyMail.com in November last year how they had received an email from one of his friends – who they say is a former U.S. intelligence officer with high-level contacts in the government – saying that he is still alive.
Vanished without a trace: Jerry Krause, from Waseca, Minnesota, disappeared during a routine flight from South Africa to Mali while working as a missionary in April 2013. Above he is pictured with his wife Gina
The last message from his Beechcraft 17 1900C 17-seat passenger plane was to a control tower on the tiny island of São Tomé, saying he was nine miles from its shore
This is the flyer that his family issued in São Tomé and Príncipe after Krause went missing. They have searched the area around the tiny island country off the coast of Gabon, but found no wreckage
The friend said they feared he is being held hostage by a criminal gang and used to smuggle high value goods against his will.
Then earlier this month DailyMail.com exclusively revealed investigators working for the family claimed intelligence ‘assets’ they have on the ground in Africa had reported seeing the pilot at an airport in Ghat, Libya.
The assets have since clarified their position to state that, in fact, it was radio chatter between known local gangs which had placed Krause in Ghat rather than a sighting, although proof of life has been reported.
Nevertheless, the information is believed to be strong enough that the hunt for the missing father-of-three is now solely focused on Ghat.
Special investigator Stephen Komorek, who is working with the Krause family, says his team has been assisted by the Tuareg tribe in their hunt.
He told DailyMail.com: ‘We received reports with information concerning Jerry coming out of Ghat in the southwestern part of Libya at an old airport used by Colonel Gaddafi.
‘As a result we made contact with the Tuareg tribe which handles the security and well being of the town and airport in Ghat.
‘Tribal leaders told our assets on the ground that they have a zero tolerance for human trafficking, so that has helped us rule out any human trafficking gangs from having take Jerry hostage.
Krause was allegedly last seen in Ghat Airport in Libya. The airport is under the control of local Tuareg tribes after the collapse of Libya’s government and plunge into civil war. It is now seen as a human trafficking hotspot
In the aftermath of the fall of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the area has come under the control of local Tuareg tribesmen and is largely lawless
‘It does not, however, rule out gangs who smuggle guns or drugs. The Tribal leaders are still assisting us to help locate Mr Krause.’
He added: ‘What’s important is that we have active operational resources in the country and throughout the continent activity searching and reporting on new information; which leads us closer to Krause. As of last December it has lead us to Ghat.
‘And one of the many sources assisting in this investigation has reported proof of life, this was a turning point in the investigation.’
Komorek, a former intelligence operator, says Ghat has a direct smuggling link with Angola, which is where Krause’s cell phone pinged a tower hours after he vanished mysteriously in 2013.
The airport is just outside the town of Ghat, an oasis close to both the Algeriana and Nigerian borders.
In the aftermath of the fall of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the area has come under the control of local Tuareg tribesmen and is largely lawless.
Tuareg is an Arabic term meaning abandoned by God. Tribesmen call themselves Imohag, translated as free men.
Family: Gina Krause, 58, is said to be ‘up and down’ with her emotions and the family have launched a Facebook page called Help Find Jerry
Family: Jerry’s family remains hopeful that they will see their father again but say ‘there’s no way he will come back the same person, there’s no way.’
The tribe numbers nearly one million and inhabits the sub-Saharan regions of North Africa including parts of Libya and Niger.
Komorek, based in Ohio, says the assets his team has on the ground in Libya are trying to get a better handle on Krause’s whereabouts through communication with Tuareg leaders, only then can they consider a rescue mission.
Kormorek also revealed his assets on the ground had confirmed with international kidnap and recovery teams working out of North Africa that no proof of life videos released by known kidnappers had featured Krause in recent years.
Kormorek is working closely with respected California based private investigator Logan Clarke to help find the pilot.
The two men, both members of the World Association of Detectives, are carrying out the work pro bono in a bid to help the family.