Members of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s family were reported yesterday to have arrived in Algeria, but the whereabouts of the ousted Libyan leader were unknown.
The report says Algeria’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has confirmed the arrival of the family in the country. Gadhafi’s wife Safia, his sons Mohammed and Hannibal, and his daughter Aisha entered the neighboring country on Monday.
Libya’s de facto government said it considers Algeria’s apparent sheltering of members of Gadhafi’s family an act of aggression and will seek their extradition.
Meanwhile, intense battles raged on two sides of Sirte, the southern city that is the headquarters of Gaddafi’s tribe and his regime’s last major bastion. The rebels were consolidating control of Tripoli, the capital.
Some have speculated that Gadhafi and other senior regime figures may have fled to Sirte.
The Egyptian News Agency, MENA, quoting unidentified rebel fighters, reported from Tripoli over the weekend that six armored Mercedes sedans, possibly carrying Gaddafi’s sons or other top regime figures, had crossed the border at the southwestern Libyan town of Ghadamis, into Algeria. But Algeria’s Foreign Ministry denied that report.
Ahmed Jibril, an aide to rebel National Transitional Council head Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, said if the report of Gaddafi relatives in Algeria is true, “we will demand that Algerian authorities hand them over to Libya to be tried before Libyan courts.”
Ahmed Bani, military spokesman of the council, said he was not surprised to hear Algeria had welcomed Gaddafi relatives. Throughout the six-month Libyan uprising, rebels have accused Algeria of providing Gaddafi with mercenaries to curb the revolution.
Earlier yesterday, Abdul-Jalil told senior NATO envoys meeting in the Gulf Arab nation of Qatar that Gaddafi can still cause trouble.
“Gaddafi is still capable of doing something awful in the last moments,” Abdul-Jalil told military chiefs of staff and other key defence officials from NATO nations including France, Italy and Turkey.
“Even after the fighting ends, we still need logistical and military support from NATO,” he added. NATO has been bombing Gaddafi’s forces since March under a United Nations mandate to protect Libyan civilians.
On August 22, New York senators asked the Libyan rebels’ transitional government to hold al-Megrahi fully accountable for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270 people. Rebel leaders have said they will not extradite him.
The Scottish government released al-Megrahi in 2009, believing he would soon die of cancer. He was greeted as a hero in Libya.
However, no fighting in Sirte itself has been reported yet and rebel leaders said they are trying to negotiate a peaceful surrender with local tribes to avoid further bloodshed.
Rebels said they want to take Gaddafi alive so they can try him in Libya.