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Carla Buzasi

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The Week That Was: In Those We Trust

Posted: 20/01/2013 00:00

The Algerian hostage crisis, which has unsurprisingly dominated the news agenda this week, might now be over, but there will be very few able to extract anything positive from the four-day standoff and its eventual messy, bloody and violent end.

As I write, British officials are still desperately trying to establish the fate of the remaining UK hostages at the Algerian gas plant. Facts are still few and far between. The only absolute truth: lives have been lost, and no side is able to claim victory.

In a situation where nothing has been clear, and exact details sketchy at best, the leaders of those countries whose citizens were caught up in the event found themselves to all intents and purposes powerless.

Powerless to help, powerless to force action, and most frustrating one might imagine, powerless to reassure the families at home waiting for news.

David Cameron, so often caught betraying his true emotions in a stressful situation, might have done his best in his Friday emergency statement to the House of Commons, but his frustration with the Algerian government's decision to stage intervention alone, and at times with little to no communication with the outside world, was patently obvious.

However, with a conclusion now reached, albeit not a satisfactory one, by Saturday politicians across the world were on message in support of the Algerian government, presenting a united front in demanding answers, and holding the terrorists fully accountable for the still unknown number of deaths.

In defence secretary Philip Hammond's joint press conference, with US defence secretary Leon Panetta, he spelled out that support clearly, insisting: "We remain in close contact with the Algerian government. We remain determined to defeat terrorism and stand with the Algerian government."

Later in the day, Cameron reiterated the government's stance, insisting: "There is no justification for taking innocent life in this way. Our determination is stronger than ever to work with allies right around the world to root out and defeat this terrorist scourge and those who encourage it."

French president Francois Hollande also defended the Algerian response as "the most suitable".

Europe may have been the coalition government's biggest distraction of late, and for the US that pesky fiscal cliff, not to mention their president's re-election, but if anyone thought terrorism had been downgraded on the world's agenda, this week's events has proven otherwise.

Algeria too now has the world's eyes trained on it, with questions about its human rights record being raised, and experts wanting to know exactly how the terrorists set up their operation in the first place.

As Sahara military expert Professor Jeremy Keenan of the School of Oriental and African Studies told HuffPost UK reporter Jessica Elgot, "This is the most serious thing that has happened in Algeria for a very, very long time."

It is likely to be just as serious for the world at large.

 

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