In case anyone still doubts that al Qaeda is alive and well, the spreading terrorism across northern Africa and the Middle East should put that doubt to rest. The most recent attack against civilians working at the In Amenas gas field in Algeria has resulted in the death of most of the hostages, and is just one more example how the terrorism fostered by the Islamists of al Qaeda-linked groups are emboldened and proliferating. Yesterday, 41 hostages were taken hostage in retaliation for French military action in Mali, Algeria’s southern neighbor. Today, 34 of them are reported dead.
When the enemy is willing to die for what he believes, and to kill as many people as possible in the process in order to gain paradise, this is a game changer. It is a new war against humanity, and it requires a firm response.
But as the mayhem continues to spread throughout Africa and the Middle East, the West is far behind, lagging in response (or not responding at all, as in Benghazi) and empowering the growing number of terrorist groups to attack more brazenly than ever. American companies with operations in North and West Africa, as well as in the Middle East, would do well to consider new options for maintaining the security of their personnel and facilities.
These are very dangerous times, and our government’s inaction is perceived as weakness by those who would like to destroy us. That translates into the motivating opinion that Americans are soft targets. If they believe that, they will try even harder to destroy us.
Corporate strength must lie in the wisdom and foresight to use new methods to protect operations and personnel in high risk places, using creative, new methods, designed specifically against terrorism. The goal is to out-think the terrorists before they are able to strike and do severe and irreversible damage. When the enemy is eager to die for his cause, heightened vigilance and a new perspective on security is not an option. It is essential.
—– Ilana Freedman, Editor
Military raid to free foreigners seized at desert gas plant reportedly leaves 34 hostages and 15 kidnappers dead.
By al Jazeera and Agencies
Thirty-four hostages and 15 kidnappers have been killed in southern Algeria, according to the group holding the hostages.
Thursday’s reported deaths came a day after dozens of foreigners and Algerians were taken hostage by heavily armed fighters near the In Amenas gas field.
The fighters said they seized the hostages in retaliation for Algeria letting France use its airspace to launch operations against rebels in northern Mali .
The spokesman for the Masked Brigade, which had claimed responsibility for the abductions on Wednesday, told Mauritanian ANI news agency that the deaths were a result of an Algerian government helicopter attack on a convoy transporting hostages and kidnappers.
The official Algerian APS news agency, citing local sources, said an unspecified number of people were killed in the military rescue attempt.
It said nearly 600 Algerian workers and four foreign hostages – two Britons, a Frenchman and a Kenyan – had been freed during the operation.
The Irish foreign ministry said an Irish man had also been freed.
Refusal to negotiate
Algerian media, citing officials, reported that 15 foreigners and 30 Algerians had managed to escape.
The Masked Brigade spokesman said Abou el-Baraa, the leader of the kidnappers, was among those killed in the helicopter attack. He said the fighters would kill the rest of their captives if the army approached.
Algeria has refused to negotiate with what it says is a band of about 20 fighters.
Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould dismissed theories that the fighters had come from Libya, 100km away, or from Mali, more than 1,000km away. He said the well-armed gunmen were from Algeria itself, operating under orders from Moktar Belmoktar, al-Qaeda’s strongman in the Sahara.
ANI, which has been in constant contact with the al-Qaeda-affiliated kidnappers, said seven hostages were still being held: two Americans, three Belgians, one Japanese and one British citizen.
Norwegians, French, Romanian and Malaysian citizens were also among those taken hostage.
The White House said it believed Americans were among the hostages and was concerned about reports of loss of life.
“This is an ongoing situation and we are seeking clarity,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
Japan’s Vice Foreign Minister Minoru Kiuchi, who is now in Algeria, urged the Algerian government to put an “immediate end” to the military operation.
Britain was not given prior notice of the Algerian government operation to release hostages and would have
preferred to have been informed, Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman said.
A Briton was among two people killed on Wednesday, after fighters launched an ambush of a bus carrying employees from the gas plant to the nearby airport.
The In Amenas gas field is jointly operated by British oil giant BP, Norway’s Statoil and Algeria’s Sonatrach.
France launched a major offensive against the rebel group Ansar al-Dine in Mali on January 11 to prevent them from advancing on the capital, Bamako.
Algeria had long warned against military intervention against the rebels, fearing the violence could spill over the border.
Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, following the hostage situation from London, said Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has allied himself with the West in the fight against al-Qaeda.
“As recently as last year it seemed that he was turning the last stronghold of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the mountains up in the north where the Berber people are natives, against those Arabs that have been coming in from outside,” he said. ”The Algerian authorities have been enjoying significant successes in targeting al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb leaders.”
Read the original article here.