By Walid Ramzi
Algeria on Monday (April 11th) denied claims that Libyan rebels had captured or killed more than a dozen Algerian mercenaries in Ajdabiya.
“The motives of those behind those baseless allegations to harm the reputation of Algeria are clearly driven by their desire to push our country to support one side against the other in fratricidal crisis tearing our brotherly country Libya,” Algerian Foreign Ministry spokesman Amar Belani said about the rebels’ statement on Sunday.
Algeria will “relentlessly” continue its calls together with the African Union for “immediate cessation” of hostilities and for an “inclusive dialogue” between the Libyan parties to “agree on terms for ending the crisis”, he added.
“The Algerian government, which has always been against the phenomenon of mercenaries in Africa, because of its disastrous consequences on the stability and security of the continent, started at early year 2011 an important work of co-ordination in relevant AU structures for the fight against the phenomenon of mercenaries,” the official maintained.
Meanwhile, Libyans staged a protest on Monday, chanting “O Algeria, your regime is helping to kill your Libyan brothers “. The protestors also accused Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of helping Moamer Gaddafi.
According to Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) spokesman Shamseddin Abdulmelah, the “mercenaries caught were not carrying identity cards” but ” they said they were Algerian and had an Algerian accent”.
“The detainees said that they were selling hashish… and they did actually have hashish,” AFP quoted him as saying.
NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil responded to Algeria’s rebuttals with fresh accusations. At his Monday meeting with the African Union delegation to Libya in Benghazi, Abdel Jalil invoked the issue of “mercenaries who come from some African and Arab countries”.
“When I say Arab countries, I here mean Algeria in particular,” he said, adding that “this is unfortunate”.
“Kadhafi has been recruiting non-Libyans for four decades in the framework of his project to build the one-million African army,” an Algerian military official, who refused to be identified, told El Khabar. “Based on that, there might be Algerians like other Africans who have joined the Kadhafi regime.”
“Those people, if there any of them, given that we think it’s unlikely, don’t represent Algeria; rather, they just represent themselves,” he added.
This is not the first time Algeria has encountered accusations from Libyan rebels. In February, Algeria denied supporting Gaddafi and using military aircraft and planes belonging to national airlines to transport mercenaries.