Friday, 23 July 2010

BREAKING NEWS: French and Algerian forces in failed attack on AQIM

As we write Algeria Politics & Security on the evening of Thursday 22nd July, we are receiving reports that an attempt to liberate the elderly French hostage Michel Germaneau during the course of last night (21st) or early this morning (22nd) may have gone disastrously wrong. As we mentioned last week, Germaneau was being held hostage by Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb's (AQIM) Abdelhamed abou Zaïd. Our own information, as we have reported on numerous past issues, is that he was being held in the Tigharghar Mountains just east of Tessalit in northern Mali.

We have confirmation that there was a lot of air traffic around the airstrip at Tessalit during the course of 21st July and at dawn on 22nd July. Shots were heard. We have unconfirmed reports that the attack to liberate Germaneau was undertaken by Algerian forces with back-up from the French Special Forces. Paris has so far said nothing, although an earlier report from the French Foreign Ministry said Paris was working to free Germaneau but would remain discreet about its methods to ensure success.

Algeria is obliged to deny the involvement of its forces, as such involvement, especially alongside French forces, would be 'political suicide' for the Algerian regime. An Algerian security source told Reuters on 22nd that "Algeria has not and will not fight terrorism outside its territory. This is a golden principle and we stick to it."

Unconfirmed reports lead us to believe that Germaneau may have been executed during the course of the botched operation. Spain, which was apparently informed of proceedings, albeit at the last minute, is concerned about the welfare of its two nationals held hostage by the same group.

The first online report was carried by Reuters at 18.01 pm GMT, which you can find here.

The second report came from Spain's El Pais, which quoted diplomatic sources as saying that French special forces had staged a dawn attack aimed at freeing Germaneau, killing six terrorists but finding no sign of the hostage or of the base where he was believed to be held, and which they had located with US help.

Interestingly, the first breaking news of this story appears to have come from Nouakchott. We are also now receiving unconfirmed reports of unspecified Mauritanian involvement in the exercise.

The latest information we are receiving from political blog sites in Algeria is growing anger at the awareness that the Algerian security forces have fought alongside French forces against other 'African' peoples (in this case many Algerians), irrespective of the fact that they are 'terrorists'. We are in contact with residents of Tessalit and the surrounding area and will provide fuller details as we receive them.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria please Algeria Focus, Sahara Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2010 Menas Associates

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