Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hostages in Barbary

On February 22nd two Austrian tourists, Wolfgang Ebner and Andrea Kloiber, were kidnapped while on holiday in Tunisia. No one claimed responsibility for the crime until March 11th, when Al Qaeda made an announcement:

Wolfgang Ebner and Andrea KloiberAl-Qaida in Islamic North Africa claimed responsibility for kidnapping two Austrian tourists last month in Tunisia in an audio recording aired Monday on Al-Jazeera television.

A man who identified himself as Salah Abu Mohammed said in the recording that the terrorist group kidnapped the two Austrians on Feb. 22 in retribution for Western cooperation with Israel, but said the hostages were in good health.

“We tell Western tourists that at the same time they are flowing into Tunisian lands seeking joy, our brothers are being slain in Gaza by the Jews with the collaboration of the Western states,” said Abu Mohammed.

So, once again, Israel’s actions are the ostensible cause of Islamic crimes. There’s only one problem with this “justification”: the Israeli incursion into northern Gaza didn’t begin until February 27th, five days after Mr. Ebner and Ms. Kloiber were kidnapped.

But this little propaganda ploy did its job well, because the MSM doesn’t sweat the details, especially when it comes to denigrating Israel. Virtually every Western news story published since March 11th has mentioned the actions of Israel as a factor in the kidnapping.

In the last few days there have been conflicting reports about the location of the hostages. Tunisia has been quick to claim that the kidnapped tourists were taken out of the country. On Tuesday there were several reports that the hostages had been taken to Algeria, and then almost immediately contradictory news stories appeared which placed them in Mali.

In any case, Al Qaeda is taking full propaganda advantage of the event, and is threatening to take more hostages. The operation seems designed to serve the dual purpose of raising funds for the terrorists while damaging the economies of the insufficiently orthodox Islamic countries of the Maghreb:
- - - - - - - - -
The French expert in Islamic groups Mathew Guidère said the kidnapping came to confirm that Al-Qaeda is adopting a double target strategy aiming first to hitting main economic activities in the Maghreb region, mostly tourism which constitutes the backbone of the Tunisian economy.

As far as the second target, Mr. Guidère said: “it is manifested in Al-Qaeda efforts extending its activities in the region as to confirm that it is able to reach any part of the Maghreb.”

He further mentioned that “this strategy reflects a turning point on the operational point of view, as kidnapping tourists plan has been abandoned after the failure of a kidnapping operation executed by Abderezzak El Para in 2003, concluded by arresting him.”

Mr. Guidère said kidnapping the two Austrian tourists “has disclosed the financial troubles hitting the armed group forced backing to more profitable activities like kidnapping because it is sure that Western countries are ready to pay ransoms for releasing their nationals.”

He’s probably right: most Western governments probably will pay ransom to redeem their tourists. Unfortunately, as everyone should know by now, paying the Danegeld guarantees that you will never be rid of the Dane.

Two interesting facts can be observed in all this:

1. Al Qaeda is in need of funds, and has taken to kidnapping as a means of making up for the success of the crackdowns against it, both militarily in Iraq and in the financial institutions of the West.
2. The terrorists hope to make a killing in the hostage trade before causing the economies of the North African littoral to collapse. The oil-free countries in the region depend heavily on the European tourist trade for their economic well-being, and a significant reduction in tourist revenue would do them serious harm.

North Africa is, as you may remember, the “Med” part of the EuroMed partnership. The EuroMed initiative was proposed in the Barcelona Declaration of 1995 as the expansion of the European Union to become the Euro-Mediterranean Union. Within the next decade the EuroMed project will come to full flower. What will happen to the whole scheme if Al Qaeda’s efforts succeed in the meantime?

The current operation is a land-based version of the Barbary Pirates. Like its predecessors in the 18th and 19th centuries, Al Qaeda is running a criminal enterprise justified by the Koran. The faithful are permitted to prey on the infidels, and are obliged as they do so to extend the reach of Islam. Al Qaeda is thus engaged in a devout and holy exercise, according to the core tenets of the Koran.

In 1798 U. S. Rep. Robert Goodloe Harper declared, “Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.”

Last year the Danes opted for tribute in order to gain the release of the Danica White. Will the Austrians do the same to free their tourists?

Hat tips: ESW and insubria.


Sodra Djavul said...

When will Westerners learn?

Stay the hell out of majority Islamic countries!

I wish it weren't so. I would love to visit the pyramids in Egypt or the ruins of Carthage or Babylon. Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity are also on the would like to list. But it most certainly is not worth endangering yourself, as these nations don't seem to mind the local undercurrents of terrorism.

So just stay out. Draw a line, let them have theirs, keep them out of ours.

- Sodra

Mikael said...

paying the Danegeld guarantees that you will never be rid of the Dane.

Hey I'm still here and I haven't received a dime. Now, cough up or I'll invade every thread! :-)

On a more serious note, I agree with Sodra. Stay away. Let them eat their sand and camel dung.

As for the Danica White I agree it was a mistake to pay the ransom, but then again, what can you do. Did you know, that negotiations were held for weeks with a group of Somalis that turned out to be bogus? That group had nothing whatsoever to do with the pirates. I think all that time wasted made the shipping company a little panicky. So they paid up, but did manage to get the price considerably down .
It was actually discussed to send in SEALS, but it was judged to be too risky for the crew.