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Dark shadow over former colonial ruler France

Posted January. 19, 2013 01:49,   


Many foreign nationals have been taken hostage in Algeria as a result of France`s interference in Mali`s civil war. Civilians of other countries have died due to complicated international relations in the region. The cause of the tragedy lies in the deep-rooted hostile ties between France and Algeria. Since long ago, Islamist extremists in Algeria have taken hostages and committed bomb attacks against France, the former colonial ruler of the African country. The Masked Brigade, the group behind the hostage taking, stormed into a natural gas production facility in protest of the Algerian government allowing French fighter jets to pass and attack anti-government militias in Mali.

On Dec. 24, 1994, four terrorists with the Islamist extremist group GIA in Algeria hijacked an Air France passenger flight. The terrorists demanded the release of their comrades imprisoned in France by taking 232 passengers and crewmen hostage. The French government began negotiations and guided the plane to Marseilles Airport. Two days later, members of the French anti-terrorist elite unit GIGN swiftly stormed into the plan, killed the hostage-takers, and rescued everyone. The 17-minute operation was broadcast live, and the incident was made into the 2010 movie “Assault.”The rescue operation was flawless and earned praise from around the world, but left a lingering fear in the French people of Islamic terrorism.

France began its 132-year rule of Algeria in 1830. Algeria has fairly strong hostility toward British colonialism, but proactively embraces French culture nonetheless. Monetary transfers by more than 1 million Algerians working in France are a major source of foreign currency for the country. The French have atoned for their colonial rule of the past. In 2007, then French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Algeria and made an apology through a direct speech, saying, “France’s colonial rule was extremely unjust, and it also ran counter to the foundational principles of France, namely liberty, quality and benevolence.” His successor François Hollande also apologized to Algeria last year, saying “Unjust and barbaric colonial rule afflicted the Algerian people.” Because French colonial rule lasted for a long time, many Algerians have not forgiven France. GIA and the Masked Brigade are typical extremist groups that demonstrate hostility through terrorist attacks.

Mali is also a former French colony that was liberated in 1960. By accepting the Malian government’s request, France recently began military intervention but the situation grew more complicated because Algerian terrorist groups have also stepped in. Anti-government militias in Mali have pledged a do-or-die struggle, saying France has entered "the gates of hell." GIA has launched eight bomb attacks in downtown Paris since 1995 after the plane hijacking, causing massive fear among the French people. Chances are that Friday’s terrorist attacks by the Masked Brigade could the first of more to come. President Hollande might one day regret interfering in Mali`s civil war.

Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam (hnbhang@donga.com)