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wundayatta's avatar

Do you think the Algerians handled their hostage situation well?

Asked by wundayatta (58357 points ) January 21st, 2013

I am wondering if terrorists, knowing the Algerians don’t negotiate, will now just engage in suicide missions where they will try to kill as many people as possible at as many different sites as possible before melting back into the wild.

What do you think of the Algerian approach to hostage situations? Could more people’s lives have been saved? Think about this short term and long term. Perhaps they were sacrificing lives short term in hopes of preventing more hostage situations long term? Or maybe their approach will encourage more deaths long term because of what I said above.

Should the Algerians have told foreign governments what they planned to do? If they told foreign governments, should they have changed their plans in response to objections, if any?

What would be an appropriate response for businesses who want to do business in Algeria? Should they pull out? Develop their own private security? Does this raise the cost of doing business in Algeria?

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17 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Judging by the outcome, yes.

tedd's avatar

We won’t know if they handled it well for some time. It will be a while before we see how this example is taken by other terrorists or what have you.

On the one hand you kind of shake your head at how they just bruted in and got many hostages killed.

On the other hand it looks like most of the hostages were saved, and as though it may have been their last chance to make a move before the hostages were shuttled away to unknown locations. Not to mention the example shown to terrorists is essentially “we don’t care if hostages die” .... which sounds cold, but to terrorists who have very little man power to sacrifice… if they’re not getting any bang for their buck (freed prisoners, money, etc), then future hostage missions are probably less likely….. though on the other hand that means suicide missions may be more likely.

It’s a mixed bag, which is why we’ll really have to wait and see.

Pachy's avatar

If you read about Algeria’s history with terrorism, you’ll understand better why they did what they did. I’m not saying it was right, but it wasn’t our decision.

bookish1's avatar

@Pachyderm_In_The_Room has it right. The government fought a civil war against Islamists throughout the 1990s. Granted, it was begun because the government shut down elections in the late 80s when it was clear that Islamist parties would win. But this history explains why the Algerian government felt it had to take on these terrorists on their own.

wundayatta's avatar

Still, for those of you who haven’t expressed an opinion, and given that there is a lot we still don’t know, do you think they did it well, also given their history?

Pachy's avatar

@wundayatta, it would appear from what we know that it was botched. But as @tedd says, we still have much to learn, and the Algerians don’t seem inclined to tell much.

dabbler's avatar

If you can get any of the hostages out alive that seems to be an accomplishment in cases like this.

ETpro's avatar

The loss of life would have been much higher had they done nothing. The terrorists were rigging the entire facility with explosives with the apparent intention of slaughtering all the hostages, destroying the facility and killing themselves in the process. Could the Algerian special forces have managed some sort of surgical action that would have taken out the bad guys with no loss of innocent lives? I wouldn’t presume to know. Given the circumstances of the situation, though, this seems unlikely. I am sure if they had seen any way to do that, they would have tried.

zenvelo's avatar

Hard to say if there was a way to do it more effectively. There were quite a few terrorists, too many and too spread out for some kind of sneak SEAL team type of attack.

It definitely makes it more difficult to do business in Algeria, but at least Western companies know what the ground rules will be: no negotiation, no dealing for hostages.

woodcutter's avatar

You are always fighting the tactics used the time before and the terrorists understand this.They will quickly adapt to any situation and have nothing but time on their hands scheming these attacks. So to try to appease them with talk now will not make them play nice later, they will take advantage of it.

burntbonez's avatar

@woodcutter Don’t people act based on their expectations? If they were expecting this kind of response, surely they would have killed as many hostages as possible as soon as possible. Now they know for sure there is no hope. They might as well kill as much as they can if they do this again. So now there is no hope for future hostages.

It’s like 9/11. The first planes ended up in the twin towers and the Pentagon. The hostages on the fourth plane had a chance to find out what happened and they realized they were on a one way trip to a major target. As a result, they were willing to sacrifice themselves to bring the plane down before they could hit the target.

They would never have done that if they thought it was hostage taking as usual—holding hostages for some form of ransom. Now we know the Algerians won’t play the ransom game. Now we know the hostages are dead as soon as they are taken.

The West understands this now, and will act accordingly. I don’t know what they will do, but I hope they will take quick action to save lives before the Algerians do anything.

woodcutter's avatar

@burntbonez However if they fully expect to be bargained with using people as chips they will be enticed to do these over and over. When will it end? Their demands will get more outlandish each time because they will feel they have the negotiators over a barrel. And still they will retain their option to kill. If anyone ever finds themselves taken hostage by these types they should assume they are going to be toast either way because a rescue will not be perfect but there is a chance some will survive.

burntbonez's avatar

Hard to know, @woodcutter. There’s a great deal of uncertainty. We need hostages to act as if they have hope for the future in order to delay hostage deaths. We need time to develop an intervention. The idea that we might negotiate buys time. The reality that we never negotiate will mean there is no time at all. It changes the game, and not in a way that helps future hostages.

If you find yourself in a hostage situation, you better assume you are toast, and take your own action right away. But that leaves you even less time, and your chances of success go down significantly.

mattbrowne's avatar

When the Islamist started executing hostages, making phone calls to the UK and other countries would have taken too long.

rojo's avatar

“Why did they take hostages?” As I understand it this particular group has made BeauCoup money ransoming hostages in the past and that is why they can afford the weapons, explosives other supplies and ability to finance their next mission. It is probably fair to assume that this is what they were planning with this group. By attacking without bargaining or negotiations the Algerians have let it be known that this tactic will no longer be effective. Is this good or bad?
It could mean that these groups will no longer see a need for hostages and will simply kill those who are in their way but what will this accomplish for them in the long run or it could mean they will have to look toward some other means of financing their operations that does not include hostages?
I have mixed feelings on this.

ETpro's avatar

@rojo Yeah, well 32 terrorist won’t do this or anything else again. And their leader and key members will soon be joining them. I do not think you can succeed on satisfying radical Islamist terrorists by appeasing them or negotiating with them. I realize the blood we in the West have on our hands, and the fact our own actions have encouraged the current climate of hate. But we don’t have a time machine to let us fix that. We must now deal with the situation as it is today.

mattbrowne's avatar

The Muslims in Mali are among the most tolerant Muslims in the whole of Africa. The Islamists want to end this kind of tolerance and establish a system of theocratic fascism based on hatred. This is why France intervened in Mali, to preserve goodness. The hostage takers took revenge for the intervention.

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