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 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

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    BluesBerry @177
    Another bad label

    To be clear, even in Heaven, money in a sense 'Master'

    At issue, between democracy & runaway-ruin, is equality

    Whether individuals are free to follow conscience, or forced to follow fear & greed

    Whether 'the markets & industry' are co-directed by equal human beings, or by Quislings of 'enterprises' with lives of their own, over-riding conscience

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    France has not abandoned imperial designs on Africa. It still has 9,000 troops - Ivory Coast, Senegal, Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad & Djibouti. Its return to Mali is not about combating "terrorists". It's a means of staking its claim to the country’s uranium, gold and untapped oil deposits & those of W. African region.
    Francois Hollande calls this: “the continent of the future.”

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    BluesBerry @175
    "a mercenary force"

    Labelling, as 'mercenary' or 'democratic', may reflect corralling of thought, only to be resisted by clarity in definition

    Few soldiers fight unpaid, most fight 'in trust' as to 'cause', almost all in ignorance as to underlying realities and implications - broad and particular - not least of the matching ignorance of their political masters

    Money the Master

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Al Qaeda has become a mercenary force, deployed by the West against targeted nations. French operations seek to trigger armed conflict in Algeria as well as a possible Western military intervention there as well, with the Mali conflict serving as a pretense.
    Your initial heading: "Terrorism in north Africa - back to the future?", if future means back to colonialism, is absolutely true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    "Top priority for UK, for William Hague as Foreign Secretary, the crisis in Algeria must end discouraging criminal & Islamo-fascist expressions of human. social & political ambition

    The 'unbelievable truth' here, is clear UK recognition of legitimate "human, social & political ambition", here or abroad. Establishment thinking would deny 'long chain' explicability of desperation & anger

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    French Empire before WWs: Libya, Algeria, Mali, & Ivory Coast now facing reconquest by colonial power, with French troops occupying, playing role in installing Western-friendly regimes. Syria too, was French – now under attack by US-British-French funded, armed terrorists. These "terrorists" receive funding, arms, covert military support, & diplomatic recognition in Syria, by NATO, US & France.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Allegedly, “Al Qaeda-linked” terrorists have seized hostages in Algeria in what is being described by the Western press as “spill over” from France’s Mali operations.
    We are seeing the West’s extremist thugs & the West’s pathetic efforts to stem them, increasingly creep over the Mali-Algerian border, as the old Colonialist maps are redrawn right before our eyes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.


    Talk to anyone not at peace with equal partnership

    Evasion inevitable, not just on chances of venture success

    Uncertainty of share, spuriously in 'chalk & cheese' contribution, more materially in 'means to live' reward, at the least makes nervous, often unhappy, determined to be first to cheat, ways numberless, perhaps 'for the best', more likely to net detriment of all

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    As I thought, ongoing French “intervention” in N. African nation of Mali has spilled into Algeria – next most likely OBJECTIVE of Western interests in the region since the successful destabilization of Libya in 2011. As far back as August of 2011, Bruce Riedel out of the corporate-financier funded think-tank, the Brookings Institution, wrote “Algeria will be next to fall”.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    "wherever from"
    "bloody & exploitative"

    Life 'colonises', 'into spaces' (empty or shared or fought-for), but also 'creative of spaces' (land made productive, cities wherein all might live)

    Each birth, discovery, solitary immigrant, brings possibility of change - in retrospect of 'colonisation'?

    Can we agree to let 'the fittest' - of genes & ideas & politics - 'win' in peace?

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    No doubt French colonialism were exploitative,and Arabs were more advanced than Europeans before the destruction of the caliphate by Mongols.

    They were also colonizers from the Muslim heartland in Saudi Arabia to the Mehgrab ,to Spain and eastward to Persia and India. The Muslim Ottomans followed

    Colonizers are bloody and exploitative wherever they come from..

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.


    "Not in the same league as Blair’s ...."

    I saw Lance Armstrong on the news talking about how past events have now caught up with him. I was struck by how much he resembles Tony Blair - both in terms of looks, the body language, the evasive mannerisms, even some of phrases used.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.


    @153, deviation from truth & justice, tragedy from ignorance
    @158, everywhere, decent people, rising to impossible duty
    @162, hardly to be 'forgiven', tides of ill-disciplined to & fro
    @163, closed minds, must open to alter trajectory
    @164, education to be all round, for any hope

    Equal partnership, hard to think
    But possible
    The alternative, ruin
    Proof too close

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.


    May be we should have employed "SAYERET MATKAL", they will get the job done clinically. The UK Special Boat Squardren failed in Nigeria, ending in the deaths on a British & Italian national. The Prime Minister Mr D. Cameron failed to tell the Italians, so he cannot moan about the Algerians , They did try & survivors will thank them. It is sad about casualities

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    the only way to tackle these problems such as this siege is to make sure that education & support will dominate the sahel, i.e not letting fanatics brain wash people that are poor,hungry,living in total misery&uneducated,because if you present facts from history to these people & perhaps intentionally mis-represent the words of God to them then all they will see is martyrdom/heaven, sad but true..


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