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The Energy Industry is Not Safe in North Africa

Energy interests sector-wide should be prepared for the coming security nightmare that is the Sahel. At a time when even the juniors have become unaccountably brave in frontier regions, the hostage crisis in Algeria demonstrates just how vulnerable the industry is.

It is vulnerable both to the whims of Western military intervention and to Salafi jihadist moves to take advantage of a transnational opening that would have been unheard of with Gaddafi, Mubarak and Assad still in control in Libya, Egypt and Syria.

The hostage crisis at the BP-operated Amenas gas field in the Algerian Sahara was most interesting because it was the result of a militant leadership feud. It was a challenge from one leader to another, and that challenge will have to be met with something equally spectacular. It was also a message to the French about their unexpected intervention in Mali. More attacks on energy installations and Western personnel are likely to come elsewhere in the Sahel, and no amount of high-tech security will prevent them.

In total, we are talking about more than one million square kilometers of ungoverned desert in the Sahel and a French military intervention that will shift them away from Mali and toward other borders to refocus. French interests and citizens will be the primary (and already declared) targets, but Europeans in general will become increasingly profitable kidnapping victims.

Conflict in Mali

The Mali military staged a coup in…

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