Tarik Hafid is an Algerian journalist for Le SoirdAlgérie an independent daily newspaper. He comments on the situation in Mali from Algeria. According to Mr Hafid, the next terrorist threat could come from Libya.
How are Algerian media currently covering the situation in Mali?
Tarik Hafid: The Algerian media has been closely following what’s been happening in Mali for several years. In the early 2000s, the Algerian press was the first to draw attention to the establishment of certain leaders of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC, which later became AQMI) in the area around Azawad. These forecast have unfortunately been confirmed. Algerian media are still very critical of the France’s military action in Mali. Many newspapers do not hesitate to use the word “neocolonialism”. One another thing is sure for the Algerian press, the current Malian government has not political control or military control.
Since the hostage crisis in In Amenas, what has been the situation in Algeria?
TH: We must first recall that Algeria has been facing the phenomenon of terrorism for more than two decades. The hostage’ situation of In Amenas certainly resulted from the specific nature of the target, the status of the victims, the organization of the terrorist group and the reply of the Algerian army. So it is important not to consistently link the security situation in Algeria with what is happening in Mali. Terrorists have different strategies for each countries they are in. But they also have an overall strategy for this region in particular. It is thanks to the drugs produced in Morocco and ransom money which enables them to buy weapons in Libya to be effective in Mali, Algeria and Nigeria. But we must remain watchful, as Islamist terrorism is indeed able to spread.
Do you struggle to get information about what is happening in the field?
TH: For a journalist, working in a country like Mali requires huge financial and logistical resources. Since the beginning of the French military operation, most of the news is provided by embedded journalists. So for the Algerian media, most of the work is done remotely.
What do you think is next for the “Serval” operation and the stabilization of Mali? What will be the impact on Algeria?
TH: It’s difficult to comment on the future events in light of what’s happening right now. Regarding Mali, I think the security should stabilize on the security policy. But I do not think that France will leavethe country soon. In my opinion, Paris should be more involved in its policy to put an end to the conflict between the central government in Bamako and communities of Azawad. Moreover, it seems that France could reinforce its presence in Niger in order to closely monitor its interests. But I think that in the future, the real danger will come from Libya. After the defeat of northern Mali, AQIM and Mujao will surely be moving to Libya. This country offers several advantages for terrorist groups: lack of security, tribalism, availability of weapons of all types and ease of recruitment for new members. The south of Libya is also on the axis of the drugs’ trade. In my opinion, the next basis of terrorist groups in the Sahel will be located in Libya.And Algeria will have to be all the more vigilant on its borders. Moreover, we must learn from previous events, as the terrorist group who attacked In Amenascrossed the Libyan border to Algeria.
Interview by Lilia Blaise