Islamist fighters seized dozens of Western and Algerian hostages in a dawn raid on a natural gas facility deep in the Sahara on Wednesday and demanded France halt a new offensive against rebels in neighboring Mali.
Three people, among them one British and one French, were reported killed, but details were sketchy and numbers of those held at Tigantourine ranged from 41 foreigners – including perhaps seven Americans as well as Japanese and Europeans – to over 100 local staff, held separately and less closely watched.
What is clear is that with a dramatic counterpunch to this week’s French build-up in Mali, the region’s loosely allied, al Qaeda-inspired radicals have set Paris a daunting dilemma and spread fallout from Mali’s hitherto obscure civil war far beyond northwest Africa, challenging Washington as well as Europeans and shutting down a major gas field that pumps energy to Europe. . .