With a grotesque matter-of-factness, suspected “Islamic terrorist” Yassine Salhi blamed “problems at home and at work” for beheading his boss last Friday. Salhi used a knife in the attack at Saint-Quentin-Fallavier in eastern France, before driving his delivery van into chemical canisters in an unsuccessful bid to blow up a factory.
Seifeddine Rezgui, who gunned down at least 38 people on a tourist beach in Tunisia on the same day, managed to get hold of an automatic weapon, but his profile was similar to Salhi’s. Neither man had a criminal record, and each was described by friends and neighbours as “normal”.… Seguir leyendo »
A frail pensioner in a wheelchair casting a vote was billed as a triumph for Algeria today. Those of us who watched Abdelaziz Bouteflika being pushed towards a temporary polling station at a school in the El Biar district of Algiers certainly felt a sense of occasion. The 77-year-old president is part and parcel of his country’s history and – with the sun shining and the views stretching out towards the white-washed kasbah and the Mediterranean beyond – he was cheered by enthusiastic well-wishers.
The problem as far as democracy is concerned is that the smiling statesman in his leather-bound executive invalid chair is set to remain president for another five years.… Seguir leyendo »
Given Algeria’s savage history, it is tragic but hardly surprising that the In Amenas hostage standoff would end in a bloodbath. Army helicopter gunships arrived at the isolated gas field in the south-east of the country within a day of al-Qaida rebels launching their operation. There was no apparent attempt at negotiation – witnesses reported both captors and captives being indiscriminately strafed with machine-gun fire.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the one-eyed “gangster” said to have planned Wednesday’s initial attack on the BP-run facility, knows the terror game inside out. He will not flinch at the loss of life, even if those who died include loyal lieutenants.… Seguir leyendo »
It is now half a century since Algeria, the jewel in the crown of Gallic imperialism, was finally granted independence, so ending 132 years of often barbarous rule from Paris that culminated in a war in which more than a million Algerians died. This week the French president, François Hollande, is on a two-day state visit to the country. His main task is effectively to offer a qualified apology for what happened, and thus “turn a page” in arguably the darkest chapter in France’s recent history. Moreover, Hollande will use the platitudinous jargon of modern global government to make the case for increased economic integration between the two countries, highlighting France’s continuing friendship with her oil- and gas-rich North African partner.… Seguir leyendo »