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The relationship between Algeria and the Libyan rebels has been hostile since the civil war began. The Algerian government has had close ties to Qaddafi, and opposed the No Fly Zone and NATO intervention that saved the rebels from defeat. Even now, Algeria is the only North African country to not recognize the NTC as the governing authority of Libya. The rebels accused Algeria of secretly aiding the Qaddafi regime once fighting broke out.
It has been alleged that the Algerian government hired remnants of the Tunisian Republican Guard and former President Ben Ali’s security forces to go to Libya. There were at least 22 flights from Algeria to Libya between February 19 and February 26 alone, most of which are thought to have been military aircraft. The total number of flights grew to at least 50 by March. The flights delivered weapons, ammunition and African mercenaries. One former regime loyalist said that 450 mercenaries were transported from Algeria in a single flight. In one clash in Adjabiya, 15 were captured and 3 were killed. The rebels also said that Qaddafi hired Algerian pilots.
French advisors on the ground found out that Qaddafi’s forces were using French military vehicles sold to Algeria. The Emir of Qatar met with Algerian President Bouteflika on May 18 to demand that he stop helping Qaddafi. On June 1 though, the U.S. commander of operations in Africa, General Carter Ham, said he “could see no evidence” that Algeria was helping the Libyan regime.
The Algerian government was apparently motivated by a fear that a successful revolution in Libya would encourage the Arab Spring in its own country. A smooth transition in Libya would also embolden the region’s opposition movements. It is conceivable that the Algerian government will try to destabilize the new Libyan government, and perhaps even allow Qaddafi loyalists on its territory to sponsor violent activity.
At the same time, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has retaliated for Algeria’s support for Qaddafi by carrying out twin suicide bombings last Friday at an Algerian military academy. The attacks killed 18 people and wounded 26. It is possible that radical Islamist elements among the Libyan rebels will look kindly upon such revenge attacks and facilitate them. One of the founders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a terrorist organization linked to Al-Qaeda, is now the military commander in Tripoli.
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