France declares war against al Qaeda
PARIS — France has declared war on al Qaeda and matched its fighting words with a first attack on a base camp of the terror network’s North African branch, after the terror network killed a French aid worker it took hostage in April.
The declaration and attack marked a shift in strategy for France, usually discrete about its behind-the-scenes battle against terrorism.
“We are at war with al Qaeda,” Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Tuesday, a day after President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the death of hostage Michel Germaneau, 78.
The humanitarian worker had been abducted April 20 or 22 in Niger by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and was later taken to Mali, officials said.
The killers will “not go unpunished,” Sarkozy said in unusually strong language, given France’s habit of employing quiet cooperation with its regional allies — Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Algeria — in which the al Qaeda franchise was spawned amid an Islamist insurgency.
The Salafist Group for Call and Combat formally merged with al Qaeda in 2006 and spread through the Sahel region — parts of Mauritania, Mali and Niger.
Officials suggest France will activate accords with these countries to stop the terrorists in their tracks.
Troops for Somalia
African leaders are pledging thousands of new troops for Somalia to fight al Qaedalinked militants responsible for the twin World Cup bombings that killed 76 people, and the U.S. says it will help bankroll the military campaign.
But internal documents obtained by The Associated Press show that African Union forces and Somali troops don’t trust each other, and that Somalia’s government “lacks consistency, coherence and coordination,” raising questions about whether more union troops can solve the Somali impasse.
France’s shift in strategy regarding al Qaeda comes a day after President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a French aid worker’s death during a speech Monday at the Élysée Palace in Paris.