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 .
The rebels have long accused strongman Muammar Gaddafi of deploying hired guns from Chad and Niger against them, and the latest allegations came a day before a meeting between the rebel leadership and an African Union delegation.
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.
He 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.
Broker a ceasefire
A high-level delegation of African Union mediators aiming to broker a ceasefire was expected in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi on Monday after meeting government officials in Tripoli.
The group includes Presidents Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania, Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali, Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo and Jacob Zuma of South Africa.
They will aim to end the conflict that broke out in Libya after Gaddafi's forces violently cracked down on a wave of anti-regime protests inspired by the revolts in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt.