Conflict & Justice

Algeria defends decision to take in Gaddafis

Algeria's United Nations envoy has defended his country's decision to give refuge to the family of Muammar al-Gaddafi.

Mourad Benmehidi told the BBC there was a "holy rule of hospitality" in the region and therefore Algeria, which borders Libya to the west, was obliged to provide assistance:

In fact in many parts of the Sahara region it's mandatory by law to provide assistance to anyone in the desert.

Bloomberg reports that Algeria has maintained a policy of "strict neutrality” during the upheaval in Libya.

Libya's rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) on Monday accused Algeria of an act of aggression for admitting the Gaddafi family.

Algeria's Foreign Ministry announced that Gaddafi's wife Safia, daughter Aisha and sons Hannibal and Mohamed had crossed into the country on Monday morning.

However the whereabouts of Gaddafi himself remain a mystery. Media reports say he is rumored to be in either Sirte, or possibly even the capital Tripoli.

An NTC spokesman said the council would use every legal avenue to secure the extradition of the Gaddafis. NTC information minister Mahmoud Shammam added:

We are determined to arrest and try the whole Gaddafi family, including Gaddafi himself. We'd like to see those people coming back to Libya.

Libya's rebels were on Monday waiting for reinforcement fighters as they continue their advance towards Sirte, which is among what Gaddafi's last remaining bastions of support.

Speaking at a meeting of defense chiefs in Qatar, NTC head Mustafa Abdul Jalil urged Nato not to wane in its support for the rebels:

Gaddafi's defiance of the coalition forces still poses a danger, not only for Libya, but for the world. That is why we are calling for the coalition to continue its support.

Over the weekend, the rebels took Bin Jawad, before claiming the small town of Nawfaliya, on their way to Sirte.

Al Jazeera reported that despite the advances, “the rebels warn us that the town of Bin Jawad itself is still quite unsafe".

Ahead of an assault on Sirte, the rebels are awaiting more fighters to join them from Tripoli – but Al Jazeera said a lack of trained fighters meant there was little likelihood the reinforcements would arrive soon.

Correspondent Zeina Khodr said:

Until Tripoli is secure we are not going to see these fighters ... and you are going to need them if you are going to open new battles like in Sirte or in Sabha, further south another stronghold of the Libyan leader.

According to the BBC, the rebels said they were in talks with Sirte's tribal elders to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, but have so far made little progress.