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French press review 18 January 2013

The hostage taking at the gas site in In Amenas Algeria is on the front page of every major French newspaper.


Le Monde's front page is dedicated to how the crisis has widened the Malian conflict. It looks at a number of issues including the consequence of the hostage taking.

Should France have intervened in Mali? How contagious is the conflict? One expert tells the paper that, unlike the war in Afghanistan which was concerned with wearing down an adversary hidden among the population, this one is a war of position and movement.

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However, another article is very critical of France for intervening: "Is this is the new face of Françafrique"? asks the paper. "Is this justified help for a threatened friend?" It warns that using what it calls a ghost president (Diaoncounda Traora) to serve western and French interests is a dangerous game. It says that President François Hollande was hoping to do away with the Françafrique image thanks to Bangui and Bamako.

It compares France to the United Kingdom saying it would be unthinkable for Britain to send troops to former colonies like Kenya or Zimbabwe. However, could these countries ever be in the same position as Mali? A good outcome is possible but cards must be played right.

Le Monde looks at how, despite calls to be careful, Mali's cultural heritage is still under threat. It writes that by attacking sacred sites in Timbuktu, for example, extremists are denying the fact that Islam has a complex identity, and that historically, the religion is a tolerant one.

The tabloid Aujourd'hui en France leads with: "The end of hostage taking, Algiers chooses force". It laments the fact the operations ended in bloodshed. It writes that Algeria acted alone as a sovereign state.

It also writes that France, by forcing Algeria to close its border with Mali and allowing French fighters planes over their airspace, has brought the North African country into the war. It adds that, as a country still haunted by the Algerian civil war which left 150,000 dead in the 1990s, Algeria has a very hard stance against terrorism.

A number of Algerians in Paris are interviewed by Aujourd'hui en France. They tell the paper it's difficult to imagine another outcome. Some say that this will affect the image of the country negatively.

The communist paper L'Humanité headlines: "Tragedy on the gas site". It writes the Islamists are trying to open as many fronts as possible.

Left leaning Libération has an aerial view of the gas site and is headlining "Hostages: a Bloody outcome". Like many French papers, it tries to make sense of the events that occured. It also features a portrait of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the former member of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) who organised the hostage taking. Although he has left Aqim, his group is said to be still under Al-Qaeda's orders. He's already been sentenced to death twice in Algeria.

Catholic La Croix is going for "Algeria , the tragedy (or drama) " on its front page. An experts tells the paper that only the army has the power to push back heavily armed groups.


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