The French news outlet AFP reports:
Benghazi — Rebels in Libya said on Sunday they had captured 15 Algerian mercenaries and killed another three during fierce fighting in the eastern town of Ajdabiya . . . . Rebel spokesperson Shamsiddin Abdulmolah told AFP that the men were not carrying identification, but “they said they were Algerian and they had Algerian accents,” adding that they would be shown in public later in the day.
“They were claiming to be selling hashish . . . and they had hashish with them. This is the whole crazy thing about it,” he said.
He also said several Algerian ID cards and passports were found in a nearby building in Ajdabiya.
Abdulmolah said the group of 18 were led into the frontline town by a local resident allied with Gaddafi’s regime, who was also captured, adding that all the detainees were being treated well.
For some time the rebels have accused Chad and Niger of sending hired guns to aid the Libyan dictator. But now a neighbor of Libya has joined the fray. AFP tells us that Abdulmolah “accused Algeria of backing Gaddafi and of ‘turning a blind eye’ to the mercenaries flowing into Libya. ‘It’s sad... The same kind of dictatorship we have here, they have over there’ in Algeria, he said.” Algeria has denied the charge, but it shoud be easy enough to identify the fighters’ country of origin.
Abdulmolah was right about Algeria’s regime. And this would not be the only instance in which Algeria has sought to destabilize the region. Algeria, of course, supports the Polisario Front in its violent campaign to wrest the Western Sahara from Morocco and has blocked an autonomy plan (enthusiastically supported by the United States and the U.N.) to resolved the humanitarian crisis. (Algeria is also home to the squalid refugee camps where individuals are denied freedom of travel and other basic human rights.)
This should tell us two things. First, the United States should be reassessing its relationship with Algeria and exerting pressure on that dictatorship to reform, and more important, halt its efforts to destabilize its neighbors. Second, Obama’s hands-off, “no regime change” approach to the war in Libya is failing. The sides are reaching a stalemate and Libya is becoming a haven for foreign fighters opposed to democratic change.
As he is on his budget, maybe it is time for the president to roll out a new plan for fighting and actually winning the war in Libya.