Algeria and Mali in diplomatic row after terrorist release

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Pierre Camatte, a Frenchman who was abducted last November in Mali, was released on Tuesday. But at what cost? Algiers has accused Bamako for ignoring bilateral agreements, following the western African country’s release of four Al-Qaeda terrorists in exchange for the release of Western hostages. Algeria believes the Malian decision is a sign of weakness in the fight against terrorism. Tuesday, the northern African country recalled its ambassador in Bamako for “consultation”.

Stressing on its commitment to fight against terrorism, Algeria has moved to condemn a decision taken by the Malian authorities to comply with what it deems as an AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) “blackmail”.

The diplomatic tiff comes after Bamako, last week, released four terrorists (two Algerians, a Burkinabe and Mauritania) in exchange for the release of six European hostages held in northern Mali, close to the Algerian border. Among them is Frenchman, Pierre Camatte, 61, who was released on Wednesday. He had been held captive since last year, November 26, at a hotel in Menaka, north-eastern Mali.

Bamako’s decision has led Algiers to express its displeasure openly. “Following the decision by the Malian government to proceed with the release of the four terrorists (…) under the false pretext that they had been tried and had served their sentences, the Algerian government has decided to recall its ambassador in Bamako for consultation,” the spokesman for the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

Algeria and Mauritania indignant

Besides the diplomatic tensions, this serious precedent could seriously compromise relations between the two states, particularly in their fight against terrorism.

With its northern area serving as a base for AQIM militants, Mali has been on a determined mission to root out terrorists from its territory. But Bamako’s action is seen as bowing to increased pressures from Western countries (especially France), and disrespecting its regional commitments.

Without an official explanation from the Malian government, the Algerian government has stated that it “strongly condemns and denounces the unfriendly attitude of the Malian government who has made mockery of the bilateral agreement on judicial cooperation,…”

Monday, Mauritania also expressed its “indignation” over the affair and recalled its ambassador to Mali for “consultations”.

The release of the four terrorists also questions agreements that bring various countries together in the fight against terrorism, as stipulated by the United Nations Security Council regulations.

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