Fighting al Qaeda’s North African arm is the business of the countries of the Sahara region, said Algeria’s foreign minister, after French special forces joined a failed attempt to rescue a hostage.
Michel Germaneau, a 78-year-old Frenchman, was killed by his Islamist captors after French troops joined Mauritanian forces in an attack on an al Qaeda camp in Mali. France has since said it is at war with al Qaeda in the region.
“For the time being, it is up to the countries of the region to take care of security,” Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci was quoted by Algerian state news agency APS as saying at an African Union summit in Uganda.
Algeria is sensitive about the role of its former colonial ruler France in its backyard. It says the al Qaeda problem in the Sahara is best solved by the region’s states and bristles at any sign that Western powers are acting without consultation, reports Reuters.
Medelci said there was no need for foreign countries to get involved “as long as the Sahel countries organised themselves with the active participation of Algeria to make sure security in this zone is handled by the countries of the region”.
Cooperation with foreign countries over security in the Sahel region — which includes Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — is possible “but only when it is necessary”, he added.
Algeria says only the countries of the region have the local knowledge needed to track down the insurgents.
Officials point to the creation of a joint military headquarters in the Sahara earlier this year as evidence they are handling the threat themselves.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Monday his country is at war with al Qaeda’s north African branch and will intensify military support for governments in the region fighting the insurgents.