Algeria's announcement today that Muammar Qaddafi's wife and three of their children had entered the country has drawn sharp criticism from Libya's rebels, who deemed Algeria's decision to shelter the family an "act of aggression" and vowed to seek the extradition of Qaddafi's relatives. But the news isn't all that surprising given Algeria's behavior over the past several months. (Over the weekend, the Egyptian news agency MENA, quoting anonymous rebel fighters, reported that six armored Mercedes sedans, possibly carrying Qaddafi's sons or senior regime figures, had crossed the border into Algeria, eliciting denials from the Algerian government.) While Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci did recently meet with Libyan opposition leader Mahmoud Jibril, Libya's neighbor has neither recognized the rebel council nor officially called for Qaddafi to relinquish power (the picture above shows Qaddafi with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in 2009).
Throughout the Libyan uprising, the rebels have accused Algeria of supporting Qaddafi politically and militarily--a charge Algeria has denied time and again. The opposition claims Algeria is supplying Qaddafi with arms, mercenaries, military vehicles, and air support, and Western powers have occasionally supported these allegations. In April, French military advisers working with the Libyan rebels discovered that a number of military vehicles used by Qaddafi's forces had serial numbers suggesting that France had sold them to Algeria. U.S.-based Algerian professor Abdelkader Cheref argued in The National last month that Algeria has also undercut the rebels diplomatically, working at the U.N. and with NATO, the E.U. and the Arab League to block limit international intervention in Libya and keep Qaddafi in power. Algeria, for its part, contends that it's remained rigorously neutral during the civil war.