David Cameron's deep anxiety over Algeria


The decision not to come to Amsterdam was taken just before 6pm on Thursday, after the prime minister had spoken again to the Algerian prime minister.

You saw in his face, you heard in his voice, you could tell from the words just how anxious they are in Whitehall about further casualties.

I am being told that they are prepared for what are being called multiple casualties. Early on in this siege there was talk, all of it unconfirmed, of as many as 35 dead from all nationalities.

Now, when I put that to people in Whitehall expecting them to dismiss it as nonsense they said "we simply don't know the answer to this, but it may not be as wrong as you originally thought".

There are some British hostages that are now known to be safe, but I am told that up to 20 are still to be identified - some may still be missing, some could still be hiding, others could be injured and not be properly identified, but sadly, too, there may be others who are dead.

I am told that when the news came from the Algerian government that they had begun a military operation without notifying or consulting with other Western countries, including the UK, the reaction in the room - I'm told from someone who heard - was: "Please God, what are they doing?"

The reason for that I'm told was that the British government has offered the Algerian government advice on how to deal with a siege situation, either negotiations or a military solution.

Because the feeling in London, and I am told in other capitals too, was the Algerian government did not have the expertise to deal with this.

Now clearly they may well argue when this all becomes clearer that they had no choice that the militants involved, the Jihadists, were trying to move people off the base and that's why military action was taken.

Those questions, some of the answers we may get in a statement in the House of Commons in the morning, but tonight along with all those families who are anxious, inside Whitehall, inside Downing Street, there is real deep concern.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

What a difference a day makes

In just 24 hours, Sir Malcolm Rifkind went from angry defiance to a grim-faced acceptance that he would have to quit his job as an MP and chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Read full article

More on This Story

More from Nick


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    BluesBerry @177
    "imperial designs"
    Or rather, of What?

    Who would have a double interest in 'defence spending' and drawing France into war?

    "La Francafrique Gaullists", rolling the dice again?

    With one in the eye for the 'apologetic socialist'?

    Or just the complex outworking of fear & greed, everywhere, for generations, distorting or over-ruling conscience

    Remedy in our choice

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    the 1 eyed enterobius"mokhtar belmokhtar" should be easily captured, at the end of the day there are 29 terrorist less in this world & 1 captured,surely the Algerian will extract info that will lead to the capture of"mokhtar belmokhtar",also to the dismantling of a terrorist network that might be in Libya,Mali,Niger,at the end the portrayed message is "once again terrorist fails again in Algeria"

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    Although the 1eyed enterobius"mokhtar belmokhtar"plans failed in every way in terms of terror in algerian soil,it's a delicate situation now that we know that there are more innocent casualties that lost their lives,in all this govts should not jump to conclusions that the algerian govt acted hastily,govts should not embrace blaming culture,there are lots survivors & fewer unfortunate casualties

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    heartfelt thoughts to all casualties in this unfortunate siege situation,surely the Algerians would have done everything they can to reduce the casualties to nil,this is a situation initiated by the terrorist driven by terror & intimidation,the terrorist underestimated the algerian govt commitment to eradicate terrorist from it's soil,hence most of the terrorist in this siege r foreigners

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    In bloodshed, an end?

    The deaths will be 'marketed', for this or that cause, or both

    Personal realities, making a living, hoping 'on the right side', or not too far from inoffensive

    Tragedy for many families, then for very many more, as existing and future investments questioned

    Respite in race to deplete Earth's 'rations'?

    But also, more of democratic deficit: denial of capitalisation


Comments 5 of 183



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.