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Cameron: Global terror response could take years
January 21, 2013, 4:50 pm

david cameron

UK Prime Minister David Cameron leaving Downing Street. [Getty Images]

In the first hint of a policy shift toward combating terrorism, particularly in North Africa, UK Prime Minister David Cameron called for firm resolve and increased engagement with African governments.

Cameron was speaking shortly after sources confirmed that six UK nationals had died in the hostage crisis at the Almenas gas processing facility in southeastern Algeria, near the Libyan border.

“This is a global threat and it will require a global response. It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months,” he said.

On Saturday, Algeria’s special forces launched a final assault on an Al-Qaeda affiliated group that had seized the plant and managed to rescue 16 hostages.

Algerian officials have warned that the discovery of 25 burned bodies means the death toll would likely be higher than the initial estimate of 23. Sources say that the total number of dead has already reached 81.

But the attack, which intelligence experts say was highly organized and well planned, is likely to open a new chapter in Africa’s war with Al-Qaeda. Experts had long warned that Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb had been gaining strength and access to advanced weapons.

The threat was exacerbated following the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 and reports that his weapons stockpiles were unsecured.

Egyptian security forces routinely capture advanced weapons such as surface to air and surface-to-surface missiles smuggled from Libya and headed for the Sinai Peninsula.

Cairo has in the past two years battled increased militant activity in the Sinai as its forces and oil and gas pipelines come under routine attack.

The instability in Mali has also created opportunities for armed groups and the smuggling of weapons. Security deteriorated in Mali following a coup in March 2012 by military officers who were unsatisfied with the way the civilian administration was dealing with a Tuareg rebellion in the north.

The military campaign in the north was halted thereby creating a vacuum, which was quickly filled by the Al-Qaeda-allied Ansar Dine rebels who pushed back the Tuareg and then imposed a severe strain of Islamic law and began to capture towns in their southward push.

Two weeks ago, France sent hundreds of troops to Mali and launched an air campaign to beat back the rebels.

With input from Agencies