Is­lamic ter­ror an on­go­ing re­al­ity in Al­ge­ria

Bray People - - COMMENT -

THE SAV­AGE and ter­ri­ble events in Al­ge­ria over the past week are a som­bre and ter­ri­fy­ing re­minder to us all of the dan­gers posed by mil­i­tants bent on cre­at­ing may­hem. More than 80 peo­ple have died, both hostages and Is­lamist fight­ers who as­saulted the BP Gas plant in the Al­ge­rian desert, mur­der­ing some cap­tives in cold blood, in what was the worst in­ter­na­tional hostage cri­sis for decades.

Other hostages died when Al­ge­rian he­li­copters gun­ships at­tacked a con­voy of ve­hi­cles con­tain­ing both cap­tives and cap­tors try­ing to spirit them out of the gas plant and oth­ers lost their lives when Al­ge­rian spe­cial forces as­saulted the gas plant in the fi­nal hours of the siege.

While the ini­tial re­ac­tion was that the Al­ge­ri­ans should have con­sulted the coun­tries with na­tion­als held cap­tive, the Al­ge­ri­ans re­sponded that they were re­act­ing to fast-mov­ing events on the ground and had no time to talk.

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron said in a tele­vised state­ment: ‘Of course peo­ple will ask ques­tions about the Al­ge­rian re­sponse to th­ese events, but I would just say that the re­spon­si­bil­ity for th­ese deaths lies squarely with the ter­ror­ists who launched this vi­cious and cow­ardly at­tack. We should recog­nise all that the Al­ge­ri­ans have done to work with us and to help and co­or­di­nate with us. I'd like to thank them for that. We should also recog­nise that the Al­ge­ri­ans too have seen lives lost among their sol­diers.

His com­ments were echoed by French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­land who said: ‘We don't have all the de­tails yet but when you have peo­ple taken hostage in such large num­ber by ter­ror­ists with such cold de­ter­mi­na­tion and ready to kill those hostages - as they did - Al­ge­ria has an ap­proach which to me, as I see it, is the most ap­pro­pri­ate be­cause there could be no ne­go­ti­a­tion.'

One-eyed veteran Is­lamist fighter Mokhtar Belmokhtar claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity on Sun­day for the at­tack on be­half of al Qaeda. They de­manded an end to French air strikes against Is­lamist fight­ers in neigh­bor­ing Mali that had be­gun five days ear­lier. How­ever, U.S. and Euro­pean of­fi­cials doubt such a com­plex raid could have been or­gan­ised quickly enough to have been con­ceived as a di­rect re­sponse to the French mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion.

Among for­eign­ers con­firmed dead by their home coun­tries were three Bri­tons, one Amer­i­can and two Ro­ma­ni­ans. The miss­ing in­clude at least 10 Ja­panese, five Nor­we­gians, three other Bri­tons, and a Bri­tish res­i­dent. Up to 48 for­eign­ers are be­lieved to have died in the siege. Chill­ing ac­counts have emerged of the Is­lamists lur­ing cap­tives from hid­ing places with prom­ises that they would not be harmed only to be shot by the heav­ily-armed fight­ers. One of the sur­vivors told how a group of Ja­panese work­ers were ‘ex­e­cuted' as he hid in a next door room.

We may think we are dis­con­nected from events in Mali, where the French and now African na­tions are bat­tling Is­lamist in­sur­gents, and sim­i­larly in Al­ge­ria, but we are not. Who suf­fers most if West­ern com­pa­nies with­draw their in­ter­ests and in­vest­ments from th­ese coun­tries be­cause of ter­ror­ism: The or­di­nary peo­ple de­pen­dent on them for their liveli­hoods.

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