Paris says it is ‘at war’ with al Qaeda after a 78-year-old French hostage was put to death by the group’s North African wing.
Seized in Niger in April, Michel Germaneau is said to have been murdered to avenge the killing of several militants in a failed rescue mission.
“We are at war with al Qaeda. We have been supporting Mauritanean forces fighting al Qaeda for months,” France’s Prime Minister Francois Fillon declared in a radio interview, stressing the wide threat posed by the group.
Dispatched to the region, France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner says he sees no raised risk of terrorism in France in the wake of the killing. He urged expats to increase safety precautions.
President Sarkozy has warned French nationals to avoid the arid Sahel which runs across Mauritania, Mali, Niger and southern Algeria.
Mali, on whose territory the failed rescue mission took place, is angry at an apparent failure to consult it over the raid by French and Mauritanean forces. Mauritania has even been accused by one senior defence official in Mali of conducting war on its land.
Analysts agree that such failings in regional collaboration will do nothing to counter the al Qaeda threat.