• France edition
 
Analysis: Hostage crisis
Hostage crisis is a global wake up call: France
The gas facility in Algeria where the hostages were allegedly abducted. Photo: "AFP / HO / BP PETROLEUM COMPANY

Hostage crisis is a global wake up call: France

Published: 18 Jan 2013 18:34 GMT+01:00
Updated: 18 Jan 2013 18:34 GMT+01:00

With Americans, Britons, Japanese and nationals of a number of other countries among the workers feared slain by Islamist gunmen, the siege at a gas field in the Algerian desert has catapulted security in Africa's Sahel region to the top of the international agenda.

France has spent much of the last year warning its allies that the threat posed by Islamist groups operating across huge swathes of North and Central Africa was reaching a critical point, particularly in Mali.

But when the Al-Qaeda-linked groups that have taken control of northern Mali began a push south last week, France was left to respond alone to its former colony's plea for help.

Moral support and a degree of logistical assistance were quickly forthcoming, but London, Washington and France's other NATO allies were equally swift in ruling out sending any combat forces to join the warplanes and 2,500 troops that Paris is deploying in support of the Malian army. Although a West African force is beginning to deploy to Mali, the absence of other Western forces makes the operation risky for President Francois Hollande, militarily and politically.

At home, France's perceived isolation has been highlighted by opposition leaders who have otherwise backed the intervention.Against that background, French officials are hopeful the terrible events
of this week in Algeria will help galvanise its allies, the European Union and West African countries into a much more active role in the unfolding crisis.

"What's happening in Algeria shows what is at stake for the entire international community with the presence of terrorist groups in this zone," underlined foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot.

That echoed the message sent out by Hollande. "

What is happening in Algeria provides even more justification for the decision I took in the name of France to come to the aid of Mali," he said.

For the United States, the revelation that the gunmen had slipped into Algeria from neighbouring Libya was a painful reminder of last year's attack on a US diplomatic mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans.

The threat to Britain's national interests has also been shown to be acute. BP, which partly runs the targeted gas field, is a major player in the region's oil industry.

Officials in London and Washington have long been aware of the potential danger represented by the "Afghanistanisation" of parts of the Sahel, a semi-arid belt that extends across the breadth of Africa.

But with Washington preoccupied by a presidential election campaign for much of last year and Britain's cash-strapped military already extended in Afghanistan, it never became a priority.

Whether that will change in the medium term remains to be seen, but the mood music has clearly shifted. Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron scrapped plans to travel to the Netherlands for a long-awaited address on European policy in order to take charge of the response to an attack he described as "brutal and savage" as well as being well-planned.

US President Barack Obama was getting frequent updates and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, on a visit to London, hinted at reprisals.

"Terrorists should be on notice that they will find no sanctuary, no refuge. Not in Algeria, not in North Africa, not anywhere," Panetta said. "Those who would wantonly attack our country and our people will have no place to hide."

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Live updates
LIVE: No survivors in Air Algérie crash
The wreckage of an Air Algerie plane has been found in northern Mali. Photo: Farouk Batiche/AFP

LIVE: No survivors in Air Algérie crash

France's president says there were no survivors of the Air Algerie crash in Africa, at the same time French authorities are ruling out the possibility the jet was shot down, saying bad weather is thus far the apparent cause. READ  

Paris police ban pro-Palestinian demo
Paris has banned a pro-Palestinian march set for Saturday. Photo: Francois Guillot/AFP

Paris police ban pro-Palestinian demo

After a string of pro-Palestinian marches turned violent in the past week, Paris's police authority has banned a march set for Saturday that is in protest of Israel's air and ground incursion into Gaza. READ  

Anti-gay mayor performs gay son's wedding
An anti-gay French mayor said 'never say never' after performing the wedding of his gay son. Photo: Hands.

Anti-gay mayor performs gay son's wedding

A French mayor known for his hardcore opposition to the country’s highly controversial decision last year to allow gay marriage, has found a same-sex union he can allow. He recently performed the wedding of his own son, who is gay. READ  

Ten bizarre facts about French Parliament
Here's ten interesting and funny things you didn't now aboute France's National Assembly. Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP

Ten bizarre facts about French Parliament

As Friday is the official start of summer holiday for members of French parliament, The Local has decided to have a little fun with them and has brought you 10 bizarre facts about its National Assembly. They're good for a laugh, but you also might learn something. READ  

Top Parisian tourist spots could open 7/7
Some of Paris's top tourist spots may stay open seven days a week. Photo: Ironypoisoning/Flickr

Top Parisian tourist spots could open 7/7

Three of Paris’s main tourist attractions, the Louvre museum, the Musée d’Orsay and the Palace of Versailles, may soon stay open seven days a week in a bid to accommodate more visitors amid dwindling subsidies. READ  

Plane with 51 French on board 'crashes in Mali'
The latest map released by officials in Burkina Faso, showing the presumed site where the plane is believed to have come down. Photo: Airport of Ougadougou

Plane with 51 French on board 'crashes in Mali'

An Air Algérie-operated flight carrying 116 people on board, including 51 French nationals, is believed to have crashed in Mali on Thursday. There have been unconfirmed reports that the wreckage of the plane has been found. READ  

French cops find arsenal on London-bound bus
French border police find an arsenal of weapons on board a Eurolines bus. Photo: Sludge Gulper/FLickr

French cops find arsenal on London-bound bus

French border police seized a small arsenal of firearms and ammunition they found stowed aboard a bus that was passing through France on its way to London, French media reported on Thursday. Officers are still looking for the owner of the weapons. READ  

France is among EU's biggest public spenders
France is one of Europe's biggest spenders, but its not getting great services. Photo: Pascal Pavani/AFP

France is among EU's biggest public spenders

The French government is the third biggest public spender in Europe, yet the quality of the health, pension and education services its paying for are significantly lower than other EU countries. A new government study explains why. READ  

Gaza crisis
France to release €11m in aid for Palestinians
An injured Palestinian is rushed to hospital in Gaza for treatment. Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP

France to release €11m in aid for Palestinians

BREAKING NEWS: France is to hand over €11 million worth of aid for Palestinians in Gaza, President François Hollande announced on Thursday morning after meeting with several NG0s at the Elysée Palace. READ  

Report - Jobs for robots
'Half of jobs in France' under threat from robots
Half of the jobs in France could soon be carried out by robots. Better think about retraining. Shutterstock

'Half of jobs in France' under threat from robots

It might be a good time to think about a career change, because according to a report from a leading Brussels think-tank, half of the jobs currently being done in France could be taken over by robots in the next 20 years. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Why you should think twice about feeding stray cats in France
National
And the new redrawn map of France will look like...?
Politics
Is French President François Hollande about to tie the knot?
International
Want a long-term visa? You may soon have to take a French test
International
Votes for foreigners: 'France would be giving up its sovereignty'
National
VIDEO: Stuntman jumps onto a moving Paris metro... and survives
Gallery
Forget 'faire l'amour', here's 15 top French expressions for making love
National
Report - 'Anti-Semitic' riots in France: 'We may leave for Israel'
National
Paris Plages: Here's 10 reasons to head down to the city beach
International
'Mont Blanc is like Disneyland. It's time to end the free-for-all'
Travel
Fancy climbing Mont Blanc? Here's 10 reasons to think twice about it
Gallery
Looking for a weird museum in Paris? Here's 10 that are worth a visit
National
Clear your head: Eight tips for buying wine in a French supermarket
National
'Don't blame the labour market for France's unemployment woes!'
National
Job applicants in France: Be prepared to send in an anonymous CV
Sport
'Bouligans' to booze bans: Ten things you need to know about pétanque
Gallery
Driving in France: How to stay out of trouble on the roads
Travel
Ten essential free phone apps for a visit to Paris
Gallery
Like cycling? Love France? See the top ten best cycling routes in France
International
'They think beer is a vegetable': What the French really think of Germans
National
Sarkozy's dream of a 2017 comeback is not dead yet
Gallery
Ten reasons why France is better than Germany (we're not talking football)
Gallery
Paris in Summer: Ten things to do on a shoestring
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se