France de­clares war against al Qaeda

Austin American-Statesman - - WEDNESDAY BRIEFING -

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.

Jac­ques Brinon

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.

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