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Main focus of Friday, January 18, 2013

Mali conflict spills over into Algeria

Hostages from Western states were apparently among the victims at the gas plant In Aménas. (© AP/dapd)

According to reports in the media, more than 30 people died on Thursday during an attempt by the Algerian army to end the hostage situation in the Sahara. Islamists had taken over a natural gas plant on Wednesday and allegedly demanded an end to the military operations in Mali. Commentators point out that radical Islamists are gaining ground in many Muslim countries, but the West won't be able to defeat the terrorists with the force of arms alone.

De Morgen - Belgium

Mali crisis turns into international conflict

The hostage drama in Algeria has turned the French intervention in Mali into an international conflict, the left-liberal daily De Morgen warns: "'Boots on the ground' may sound harsh, but in today's Mali it refers to joining the fight against a conglomerate of heavily armed Islamist militia most of whom have ties to groups fighting in countries like Mauretania and Algeria. It has become evident in the past two days that this raises the risk of unforeseen complications. In Algeria, fighters attacked a BP gas plant in protest at the French intervention, taking 41 foreign nationals and 150 Algerians hostage. The Algerian army launched a risky attack against the plant yesterday, which has turned into a fiasco. ... The war in Mali has morphed from a serious regional conflict into an international crisis that puts citizens in Europe, Asia and the United States in a particularly dangerous situation." (18/01/2013)

Sydsvenskan - Sweden

Al-Qaida's ideas live on

The hostage drama in Algeria makes it clear that the terrorist network al-Qaida and its ideologists are still alive and kicking, the liberal daily Sydsvenskan writes: "In North Africa and the Middle East, the number of relatively stable states is gradually dwindling. In many places local Islamists and foreign holy warriors threaten to take power. ... Luckily, groups like al-Qaida are not able to carry out terrorist attacks in the West just like that. At the same time, however, we are seeing in many places that Islamist groups are gaining control over territories or even entire states. This development is extremely worrying. Hamas has already created a mini-state in Gaza. Hezbollah is the real power in Lebanon. The Taliban is just waiting for the foreign troops to leave the country, and neighbouring Pakistan is partially controlled by the Taliban. In this broader context, whether al-Qaida is losing ground in one way or another is certainly not the decisive issue." (18/01/2013)

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Yet another pointless war

The bloodbath in Algeria proves that the military campaign in Mali is doomed to fail, political scientist Vittorio Emanuele Parsi contends in the liberal business paper Il Sole 24 Ore: "So far the only 'successes' of the new French military campaign in Africa have been two tragic side-effects: the hostage crisis in the gas field in Algeria and the death of a French hostage in Somalia. The conflict in Mali seems to be related to the last campaign to protect Europe in Libya. Particularly since the alleged 'victory' achieved through weapons in Libya it seems the use of violence - or war, to call a spade a spade - increasingly misses the political target in the name of which it was initiated. ... So instead of working out a perfect strategy and tactics it would be far more sensible to rely on the political and economic instruments at our disposal - before we found ourselves caught up in the umpteenth 'war against terrorism' out of which the military will have to extricate us because the politicians have been incapable of setting realistic goals and making available the justified and necessary resources." (18/01/2013)

Delo - Slovenia

Europe lands itself with its own Afghanistan

The fact that radical Islamists clearly want to put an end to French military intervention in neighbouring Mali with their hostage-taking in Algeria shows that Europe has learned nothing from past mistakes, the left-liberal daily Delo writes: "It's as if Europe hasn't learned anything from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, where nowadays no one dares intervene. As if we had no way of knowing that military force wouldn't get us anywhere. Armed superpowers may be able to drive the 'terrorists' into a corner for a while. But without the cooperation of local forces and their democratic maturity, any conflict will eventually turn into a colonial military occupation. After all its mistakes and after apparently having underestimated Africa and the Arab Spring, Europe is now facing its very own Afghanistan. To what extent common European foreign policy is to blame for this is a good question. Nevertheless it's clear that the repercussions will affect everyone and that the EU is not up to this task without help from the US." (18/01/2013)

Kurier - Austria

Put an end to the spectre of terrorism

The states of Europe must join forces in a military offensive against Islamist terror, the liberal daily Kurier demands: "Ministers in Berlin once vociferously defended the intervention in Afghanistan on the grounds that Germany's security was being defended in the Hindu Kush. And today? Berlin might chip in with a few transport planes. Very ambitious. The British are also taking cover - no combat troops. Austria, for it's part, has no time for this burning issue anyway: the party wrangling about compulsory military service or a professional army is paralysing everything. That's downright irresponsible. The radical Islamists in the Sahel are exceedingly well-armed and well-networked. ... And the fight against them is no walk in the park. But what is the alternative? To let them do as they please. ... No, Europe must close ranks, march together and cooperate with the African states to put an end to the spectre of terrorism. The risk of failure (see Afghanistan) cannot be denied. But doing nothing would be even more dangerous." (17/01/2013)

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