Gaddafi family welcome under ‘holy rule of hospitality’
Algeria's UN envoy has defended his country's decision to grant refuge to the wife and three children of Colonel Gaddafi. Mourad Benmehidi told the BBC that in the desert region there was a "holy rule of hospitality".
Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) today accused neighbouring Algeria of an act of aggression for admitting the fleeing wife of Muammar Gaddafi and three of his children.
Algeria's Foreign Ministry confirmed that Gaddafi's second wife Safiya, mother of all but one of his children, his daughter Aisha, his sons Hannibal and Mohammed and their children had entered Algeria yesterday morning across the desert border between the two countries.
An NTC spokesman said the council would seek to extradite the Gaddafis as the development threatened to create the new government’s first diplomatic rift.
A senior rebel officer also said Gaddafi's son Khamis, a feared military commander, had been killed in a clash outside of Tripoli although the report could not be independently confirmed.
Mohammed Gaddafi, the least involved in politics of all Gaddafi's children, was captured as the rebels took Tripoli nine days ago but he later escaped.
The news that members of Gaddafi's family were being sheltered by Algeria came as the hunt for Gaddafi continued and rebels attempted to take his home town of Sirit.
A report from an Italian news agency said Libyan diplomats in Rome believed he was in the town of Bani Walid, south-east of Tripoli, with two of his sons, Saadi and Saif al-Islam.
A senior rebel leader, Brig Gen Abdusalam al-Hasi, the head of the country's special forces before he joined the rebel uprising in February, said he believed the vanquished leader was with Touareg allies in the south-west of the country, close to the Algerian border.
"The Touareg are supporting Gaddafi so I think he's there," he said.
Gaddafi met Safiya Farkash, a nurse, while he was in hospital for appendicitis in 1969. She bore him seven children, including Hannibal and Aisha.
Aisha is a lawyer, who helped defend Saddam Hussein in the trial that led to his hanging. Hannibal acquired a reputation for violence while travelling in Europe. His arrest for mistreating two members of his staff while at a hotel in Geneva caused a diplomatic rift with Switzerland, in which two Swiss businessmen were jailed in Libya in retaliation.
On Monday, television footage showed the nanny of Hannibal’s children hiding in their home in Tripoli, horribly burned and scarred, apparently as a result of an attack some months ago by Hannibal’s wife, Aline Skaf. The nanny said that she had refused to beat one of their children, who would not stop crying.
The flight of the Gaddafi family will cause a major diplomatic headache. Algeria refused to take sides in the Libyan civil war, and has still not recognised the NTC.
Unlike Gaddafi and Saif al-Islam, none of the four in Algeria have been indicted by the International Criminal Court.
Mahmoud Shammam, chief spokesman for the NTC, said: "We have promised to provide a just trial to all those criminals and therefore we consider this an act of aggression.
"We are warning anybody not to shelter Gaddafi and his sons. We are going after them in any place to find them and arrest them."
Last night the Algerian Foreign Ministry confirmed that Gaddafi's family had entered the country. It said Algerian authorities had informed the United Nations. (© Daily Telegraph, London)