Libyan Tuaregs flee to Algeria

2011-08-31 20:00

Algiers - About 500 Tuaregs hunted by Libyan rebels have entered Algeria in the last 24 hours, a government source said on Wednesday.

"About 500 Tuaregs were being pursued by the rebels. They fled [into] Libyan territory and, for humanitarian reasons, we couldn't refuse them entry," said the official, who did not want to be named.

Among them were women, children and casualties, the source added.

Tens of thousands of Tuaregs took refuge in Libya following rebellions that shook Mali and Niger in the 1990s and early 2000s, and again between 2006 and 2009.

The rebel movement say Libyan Tuaregs fought for toppled leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Algeria media reported that the country closed its borders with Libya after Gaddafi family members fled there on Saturday.

The daily Ennahar said in its online edition on Wednesday however that Algeria partially reopened its border near the Libyan town of Ghadames, a mainly Berber settlement about 600 km southwest of Tripoli which is now under rebel control.

A group of 70 Tuaregs were authorised to enter the country on Tuesday afternoon, followed on Wednesday by the remainder, it said.

"The Algerian Red Cross has been tasked with dealing with the refugees and taking care of them," the government source told AFP.

Ennahar said more than 10 000 Libyans, mainly women and children, have taken refuge in Algeria since the start of the rebellion in February.

Security sources in Mali said on Monday that hundreds of Tuaregs from Mali and Niger who fought for Gaddafi had started returning from the Libyan front, raising fears of conflict.