Africa

Press links Algerian crisis with Mali operation

Algerian men look at national newspapers headlining the terrorist attack and kidnapping in Amenas at a news stand in Algiers, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013.
Image caption Algerian commentators expressed fears for the country's security in the wake of the Malian crisis

Papers throughout the world have made the connection between the French military operation in Mali and the hostage crisis in Algeria, and expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation in the region.

In Algeria itself, commentators see the hostage crisis as an inevitable consequence of the Malian conflict.

Elsewhere, many commentators are anxious that the French operation in Mali could destabilise the entire region.

Several Algerian commentators stress their country's vulnerability to attack in the wake of the Malian crisis.

Salem Ferdi, writing in Le Quotidien d'Oran, says: "We were waiting anxiously to see if Algeria would suffer the security repercussions of the war taking place in Mali, but it came much sooner than expected."

Salim Tamani, writing in the French-language Liberte, sees a distinct possibility of Algeria being dragged into a new cycle of violence. "This is a hard blow for Algeria… al-Qaeda in the Maghreb has hit where it hurts," he writes.

"The aim could be to drag Algeria into the war France has entered into in Mali. It could also herald the start of reprisals against Algeria for having agreed to allow French warplanes to fly over its territory… After 20 years of the fight against terrorism, could the chaos in the Sahel region risk dragging Algeria into a new spiral of Islamist violence?"

Louisa Aït Hamadouche, writing in El-Watan, also emphasises Algeria's vulnerable geo-political situation.

"This is an attack that affects Algeria directly, not only as a political player but also in its strategic economic interests as well as in its relations with its international partners… This hostage-taking shows the limits of the sanctity of our borders."

The French connection

An editorial by Pierre Rousselin in France's centre-right Le Figaro suggests that the events in Algeria provide additional justification for France's intervention in Mali. "No matter how terrible it is, the hostage-taking tragedy in Algeria justifies the broadest possible mobilization in the fight being carried out in Mali to halt the never-ending spread of Islamist terrorism," it says.

The French centre-left daily Le Monde agrees. The hostage crisis in Algeria is a "terrible warning" that the conflict in Mali "is not a matter between France and one of its former colonies in West Africa" but "a sign of the growing destabilization of the whole Sahel region," the paper says. "We expect a strong signal, a gesture that is commensurate with what is at stake, an exceptional mobilization on the part of the Europeans," it adds.

Another left-leaning French newspaper, Liberation, emphasizes Algeria's role. "No success against the jihadists of the desert is possible without the active, determined and constant support of the Algerian government," Vincent Giret says in an editorial.

In Russia, several papers unite in blaming France, the US and other European countries for the crisis.

The centrist daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta is concerned that the crisis in Mali and Algeria threatens to turn into a "surge of terrorist activity" in the whole region.

"Previously, al-Qaeda militants acted mainly in northern Algeria and never attacked the country's numerous gas facilities and oilfields. However, right after the start of the French military operation against radical Islamists in northern Mali, there came threats against Paris and its allies," the paper says.

Another Russian daily, Novyye Izvestiya, describes the Algerian hostage crisis as the biggest since the 2004 "Beslan tragedy". The paper says that the rebels have the technical ability to strike not only in the region but also in Europe.

The state-owned Rossiyskaya Gazeta says that France's "sudden" decision to intervene in Mali is what sparked the hostage crisis.

The Japanese paper Asahi Shimbun also feels that "the hostage crisis was triggered by the French army's military intervention in Mali".

And the pan-Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi says that the Algerian government's decision to allow French planes to pass through its airspace is what has caused it to slip into "a bloody quagmire that may undermine all its achievements in maintaining stability".

Further repercussions?

Several Middle Eastern papers feel that the Malian conflict could have a destabilising effect on the region as a whole.

The Saudi paper Al-Watan says that it is "quite normal to link what is taking place in Mali with events in Somalia, Algeria and the Arab Maghreb".

Al-Watan adds that the taking of European hostages is "only the beginning of a long series of confrontations between such movements and the Western countries".

And the pan-Arab daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat says that the crisis in Mali has become "a growing threat to national security not just for Africa… but for the entire Arab world".

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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