The violent flashpoint between militant Islamic extremists in North Africa and western-backed governments struggling to contain them has been unfolding over the past few days in Algeria. Islamic militants have taken responsibility for a hostage taking of Westerners, after France began a bombing campaign meant to stamp out the southward push of Islamic extremism in neighboring Mali.
It’s a familiar history in that region of the world. November 1954 marked the beginning of Algeria’s war of independence against France. It was one of the bloodiest colonial wars of the 20th century. On November 1st, 1954, the National Liberation Front launched attacks across Algeria leaving a dozen people dead. The French conceded Algerian independence eight years later. Around 500,000 people had died in the war.
Robert Fowler knows this history well, and how it influences the current situation in Algeria. Fowler served as Canada’s former ambassador to the UN from 1995 to 2000. During his ambassadorship he was kidnapped by Al Qaeda militants and held hostage for more than four months. He is author of the book: "A Season in Hell: My 130 Days in the Sahara with Al Qaeda."