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

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  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    Sultan Abdelkader warned the French from their occupation methods, although enemy with france at the time,he pleaded them to share knowledge,co-operate, open commerce and so on,he warned them about the future,the dangers of ignorance outcomes ect.the French never listened they just wanted to cause Carnage and rob these people, no one can change history nor future circumstances as result of history

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    @160.bryhers,the european presence in the region is relatively short indeed but devastating, the moors were rich & flourished in many positive ways including scientifically,culturally and so on, until the french plagued N Africa/Sahel with ignorance, rape, exploitation, slavery,and total carnage to understand this read "the life of Abdelkader by Charles Henry Churchill" >>

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Of more than "region"

    Remarkable, this grave reflection of potentially catastrophic ignorance, picked-up for use in the weighing of Cameron & Miliband

    Neither likely to know - or at least in this life to confess - unless led, the misfortune of Arab 'youth', sacrificed under our false flag, to our sham of democracy

    To ask freedom without equality, is to understand neither

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    A 158

    I rgret the loss of a brave soldier but I don`t see the relevance to colonialism which predates European colonization of Arab lands by centuries. Wasn `t the Caliphate first destroyed by the Mongols and succeeded by the Ottoman empire?.

    The European presence was relatively short on this timescale,and of course Arabs were also colonizers in Spain and elsewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.


    Support for the Arab Spring showed ignorance of the region.Despots were replaced by Muslim extremists who threaten us

    Iraq was a mistake in retrospect.Saddam had used chemical weapons,had built a nuclear facility, invaded Kuwait.and obstructed inspection.His bluff was too effective and believed by many intelligence agencies.

    After 9/11 we went after terrorist states,his was one

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    History, Politics, Democracy, Colonial interference that maybe, no one should bow to terror, Algerians knows that well,"a young Algerian who was on duty at the entrance gate of the base "Amine Lahmar" he is the 1st to be executed, he was shot and killed (shot in the head) by the besiegers because he flatly refused to open the gates, he nevertheless managed to raise the alarm before he got shot.RIP

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    The criminal destruction of democracy & Islamist rights by the Algerian govt with French connivance
    The barbaric war the govt conducted against its own people after it lost the General Election
    BP taking no notice. Just pumping gas.
    No one has the right to be warm this winter from blood oil and gas like this
    When European powers behave as neo-colonialists they re-enact their fascist pasts

  • Comment number 156.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    The House of Commons was almost empty whilst Cameron told us of the tragedy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    “Cameron`s uncritical support was naive and dangerous and has fomented extremism with risks for us”

    I think that the consensus was that the Arab Spring was inevitable, better to help the transition rather than continue to support dictators – Difficult call – perhaps a No Win scenario?

    Not in the same league as Blair’s recklessness & naivety with Iraq though, is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    Jahiliyah (Ignorance) is the mother of all the tragedies, chaos,oppression, corruption in existence in all colonised countries in the arab world, yet the colonisers deviation from truth and justice had become embodied terrorism in some societies by supporting tyrants like in libya, egypt, iraq, iran, morocco, Saudia, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Israel and so on... what is the remedy? tragic really...

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.


    My conviction that support for the so-called Arab Spring would lead to extremism is vindicated.I`m not concerned with what Ed thinks,he`s not the government.Cameron`s uncritical support was naive and dangerous and has fomented extremism with risks for us.

    I do welcome young,educated,westernized Arabs like a Libyan doctor I know who wants his compatriots to disagree without violence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    Just wondering....

    How many 8th century philosophers talked in terms of organisms environments, genetic mutation and inherited characteristics? Or new species?

    Can I have the source for that quote please?

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    family guy @

    Darwinism sees 'fitness' plays a part in survival

    NO guarantee an 'unworthy survival' to be long-run

    To survive, victorious may have to acquire loser's qualities, by conversion, enlightenment, mutation, neoteny

    With not thousands or millions but billions of years for 'advance', what folly for resilient valuably-mixed communities so far to 'compete' as to degrade People & Planet

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    My question on this is very simple - who made the decision that the PM would no longer to to the Netherlands? Was it a political decision, or was it based on real advice that he might have to intervene or take real decisions regarding Algeria? I do hope this crisis is not being escalated out of all proportion for political reasons that have nothing to do with Algeria or terrorism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.


    Very good! Yet nothing in that statement relates to Islam, nor do a majority of Muslims deserve tarring with that brush. You seem to be taking a leap...

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    money motivated the terrorist siege near the Libyan Border with Algeria, Q?why now,what's the hurry? I think the one eyed enterobius"mokhtar belmokhtar"wanted to go shopping in Libya,but what for,Mali? then what is the secret route from Libya to Mali?or are the weapons destined to wage a war against algeria?if so then I think the one eyed enterobius"mokhtar belmokhtar"is a rare enterobius plonker

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    @145 I think the other possible reason is that simply these terrorists came into Algeria from Libya, already heavily armed. I think when the Algerians reveal the identities of these terrorists the picture will finally be much clearer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    one have to think and be ZEN to why this unfortunate siege took place near the Libyan border,in my opinion the terrorist knew that foreign pressure on the Algerian Govt might cash them lots of money which will allow them to shop & arm them to the teeth in Libya, 2 lessons learned.A don't mess with Algerians B what is the amount of weapon are available in Libya's illegal weapon supermarkets

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    family guy @131

    Of those who gave their lives against fascism, self-sacrificing courage was fortified by confidence in humanity, in the worth and force of those who would prefer shared universal freedom, survival of democracy not elite gang-membership

    Perhaps you will deride, but as well as genes we 'pass on' culture, both - we may trust - with potential for change, to meet & create new worlds


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