Incident: Islamic militants generally based in Mali launched an attack on Monday/Tuesday on a BP-operated gas field in the neighboring Algerian Sahara desert. They took over 600 hostages from 10 different countries. The bulk of the hostages appear to have been freed by the militants just ahead of an Algerian Special Forces raid, which itself killed some 35 hostages and 15 of the estimated 20 militants. A number of hostages remain unaccounted for, including Americans and Britons.
Bottom Line: While this crisis went down over 1,000 kilometers from the Algerian capital, Algiers, and is about Mali—not Algeria—it will reverberate throughout Algeria, on to Niger and across the Sahel. But it benefits the French, who now control this area of Algerian airspace and will likely look to securing their significant uranium supplies in Niger.
Analysis: Nearly two-thirds of Mali’s entire territory is now occupied by armed Islamists. The Mali military staged a coup in March 2012, timed one month before presidential elections. They ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure on the pretext that his administration had failed to deal with the Tuareg, who have been pursuing independence for “Azawad” (Northern Mali) since the 1960s.
The coup leader was Pentagon favorite Amadou Haya Sanogo, who was trained in the US and by AFRICOM and was viewed in Washington as a strong ally in the fight against terrorism and particularly against the solidifying…