The joy at the escape of a west Belfast man who had been taken hostage by al-Qaida extremists in Algeria will be tempered |by the news that so many people died in yesterday’s terrible massacre.
As one family rejoices, our thoughts and prayers are also with those relatives of the many captive gas workers who did not survive.
The fact that so many died in the horrific melee only serves to underline how lucky Stephen |McFaul was emerge alive from the chaos.
Stephen had Semtex explosives strapped around his neck and then being in the only vehicle not to be damaged when Algerian troops tried to free the hostages. Yet it was obviously a hugely traumatic experience and no doubt he can hardly wait to get back to his family.
The attack on the oil workers shows that Africa |is now becoming a new battleground for Islamic |extremists. French forces have gone into |neighbouring Mali to help the Government there |to stave off rebel forces. They are being joined |by soldiers from other west African countries alarmed that the fundamentalists could gain |control in the region.
One of the manifestations of the fundamentalist thinking is their plans to outlaw the music of |traditional Mali performers whose compositions are famous throughout Africa. To the Islamist |extremists, attacks on culture are one of |the weapons for imposing their will on local |populations. And the extremism appears to be spreading, in spite of the wars in the Middle East. To recall a phrase from a different time in this province — they haven’t gone away you know, in spite of their military defeats elsewhere.
It is a menace which can engulf without |warning. The world really is a global village and people from this island are scattered throughout it, many of them seeking a better life for themselves and their families. But it is when incidents like this happen that we realise that Northern Ireland, for all its problems, is a relatively safe place compared to many of the world’s trouble spots.