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Western alarm at unfolding Algeria hostage drama

17 January 2013

Western leaders say they are extremely concerned at events surrounding the Algerian military’s storming of a gas complex where Islamist fighters were holding many hostages. There are unconfirmed reports of people killed – some say many – and that there’s been an explosion at the site. The Algerian armed forces apparently attacked from the air to try to end the crisis. But among the flood of information, very little is verifiable. Some reports spoke of hundreds of Algerians at the site being released. One piece of news that is confirmed is that an Irishman is free and has spoken to his family. Stephen McFaul’s release was announced by the Irish foreign minister. But several other countries, concerned for their own nationals among the hostages, are alarmed at events. The French President François Hollande said the situation seemed to be evolving in terrible conditions. Events in Algeria, he said, justified the French intervention in Mali to combat a terrorist attack and re-establish the country’s territorial integrity. Britain has warned against a direct link between events in both countries. It was not informed of the Algerian military operation; the Prime Minister David Cameron has let it be known he would have preferred to have been told. The Algerian government says it needed to act immediately. Until more is known, others are reserving judgement. But Japan has called on Algeria to stop the military operation immediately. Once the dust has settled there are bound to be many questions and much controversy.