Islamic militants who seized hundreds of workers at an Algerian gas plant have drawn Algeria into the ongoing Mali crisis. More importantly, they have provoked a stern response from Europe.
The raid at Ain Anemas, early January 16, was conducted by a militia calling itself the “Masked Brigades” or “Signers in Blood.” The group is affiliated with al Qaeda’s North African franchise, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (aqim), which is the terror entity that recently helped “liberate” northern Mali.
The militants said they were holding 41 Westerners among the hostages, most of them European. During the siege, six of the foreigners were reportedly killed by the militants and 25 escaped on their own. But when Algerian air and ground military forces stormed the plant for rescue efforts, more people were killed during the military’s four-day standoff with the terrorists. The death toll continues to rise as more bodies are discovered. About 600 hostages have been freed.
In an official statement, the Islamist terrorists said: “We bear the Algerian and French government and the countries of the hostages’ full responsibility in not speeding up the implementation of our demands [to stop] the aggressive assault on our people in Mali.” The French have intervened in a campaign against the advances of the Islamists in Mali, and the Algerians have granted overflight permission to French fighter jets and sealed their southern border with Mali, cutting off essential fuel supplies to the terrorists in northern Mali.
Unofficial reports by escapees indicate that the motive for the kidnapping may also be religious. Abdelkader, a 53-year-old from the nearby town of Ain Amenas, said the terrorists assured that they “would not hurt Muslims but were only interested in the Christians and infidels”—interested in killing them, that is.
Taking hostages is also a lucrative fundraising avenue for terrorist groups in the region. Ransom payments have earned them tens of millions of dollars. Algerians have lobbied for the United Nations to ban the common trend of governments paying ransoms to these militias, saying it frustrates counterterrorism endeavors.
The hostage crisis in Algeria exposed the volatility of the region and the wider ramifications of the Mali conflict. A Stratfor analysis of Dec. 12, 2012, explained that concerns about Algeria’s volatile southern border with Mali, and aqim’s connections with Algeria, the country of its birth, were part of the reasons why some in the international community opposed or delayed the intervention in Mali.
But now the conflict has spread into Algeria, Europe has no choice but to become more involved. With this latest crisis, France and Europe are more emboldened to help fight Islamist militants for their own security and economic concerns. Ain Anemas is a gas plant in the southeastern part of Algeria that produces one sixth of Algeria’s natural gas. Algeria is Europe’s third-largest gas supplier.
Watch for the Mali crisis to spill over directly or indirectly into other nations in the region as it has in Algeria. And watch for tensions between radical Islam and Europe to increase to the point of bloody conflict reminiscent of the Crusades.
Europe is prophesied to be the entity that decisively confronts radical Islam in the Middle East and North Africa. Already, it has intervened in Libya and is now intervening in Syria and Mali. Our free booklet The King of the South and our article “The Last Crusade” explain these prophecies and their significance in greater detail. ▪