Maghreb leaders voice solidarity with France
Tunis - Maghreb leaders voiced solidarity and sympathy with France, which was hit with the worst attacks since World War II when suicide bombers and gunmen massacred more than 120 people.
Government officials in North Africa privately worry about a backlash in French elections against Muslims in France, most of them of Maghreb origin. Such a reaction could add to arguments by far-right groups that call for an end to the flow of immigrants and toughening of approaches to integrate immigrants into French society.
There are 4 million-6 million Maghrebis, mostly from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, and their descendants in France.
“I offer you and, through you, to the families of the innocent victims of these criminal acts and to the whole French people, my most saddened condolences,” said Moroccan King Mohammed VI in a message to French President François Hollande.
Morocco suffered a series of attacks in 2003 when bombers sneaked into downtown Casablanca and set off explosions at several landmarks, killing 41 people and shattering the kingdom’s self-image as a tolerant and open nation.
“I equally care, on behalf of the Moroccan people and myself, about condemning with the most vigour these despicable terrorist acts and affirm to you our full solidarity and support in this ordeal,” King Mohammed VI added.
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika condemned the Paris attacks and urged international solidarity in the face of extremism.
“This planned horror is a real crime against humanity,” Bouteflika said.
Algeria bears the scars of more than a decade of terrorism when hopes for multiparty democracy and prosperity were hampered by a radical Islamist insurgency in the early 1990s. About 200,000 people were killed.
Algerian officials have repeatedly called on the international community to unite against the global threat of terrorism. Many, however, deemed Algeria’s violence a political domestic crisis.
“Algeria strongly condemns these terrorist crimes, which attest, unfortunately once more, to the fact that terrorism is a cross-border scourge,” Bouteflika added.
He said such violence must be confronted through international solidarity under the aegis of the United Nations.
The assaults came as France, a member of the US-led coalition waging air strikes against the Islamic State (ISIS), was on high alert for terrorist attacks. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the November 13th assaults in Paris. In addition to the scores killed, hundreds were injured, many seriously.
It was the deadliest such attack in Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings, in which 191 people died. Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi visited Hollande at the Elysée Palace to display solidarity with France.
“Tunisia condemns powerfully these barbaric schemes and calls on all peoples who love freedom to join efforts against this scourge,” Caid Essebsi said.
Two Tunisians, two Algerians and one Moroccan were among the victims of the Paris attacks.
Tunisia is struggling to contain surging radical Islamists, including al-Qaeda and ISIS sympathisers at home and in next-door Libya.
Attacks in March and June in which dozens of tourists at the Tunis Bardo museum and a Sousse resort beach tarnished its image and damaged its key tourism industry.
In an escalation of internal terrorist tactics, jihadists cut the throat of a 16-year-old shepherd on November 13th in a mountainous village in the central province of Sidi Bouzid, accusing him of spying. They forced another young shepherd to carry the victim’s severed head to his family.
He was the second shepherd killed in Tunisia in three weeks, authorities said.