World Focus: Al-Qa'ida keeps its promise to be 'bone in crusaders' throats'

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The Independent Online

Al-Qa'ida "in the Maghreb" strikes again. Forty three dead on Tuesday, another 11 yesterday. And across the Muslim world, it continues. A suicide bomber in Mersin in Turkey, 23 dead in a hospital complex in Pakistan and – let us not forget how these figures are put together in the Middle East – 10 French soldiers at Salopi in Afghanistan. Yes, I'm sure we're winning the "war against terror". But aren't we losing it?

It was one of al-Qa'ida's most prominent leaders who announced in 2006 – on 11 September, of course – that the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat and al-Qa'ida would be "a bone in the throat of the American and French crusaders" and they kept their dark word. Tuesday's appalling suicide bombing in Algeria was followed yesterday by car bombs in the city of Bouira. Just as the earlier suicide bombing targeted police cadets, so the Bouira bomb were aimed at foreign nations. Canadians and Frenchmen were said to be among the victims.

If the bombings seem casually crafted to a Western audience, they did not appear that way in the Arab world. "From Asia to the Maghreb – terrorism is coasting along," the Beirut French language L'Orient Le Jour headlined its front page on Wednesday. It was perfectly correct. The last French military casualties on this scale were at the Drakkar building in Beirut in 1983. The fact that the Taliban could officially announce not only the French dead in the town of Salopi but their own casualties as well showed how sophisticated their attacks have now become.

If it was not clear last night whether the latest Algerian attack was a suicide bomber – the slovenly Algerian press agency declined to say (which probably means it was) – the target, foreigners working on a dam project – spoke for itself. The local police – in Iraq, in Algeria, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan – are now the men who will pay the price for fighting the West's "war on terror".

Is it worth it? This is the question that the Iraqis and the Algerians and the Afghans and the Pakistanis now have to ask themselves. In answering this question, they will have to ask whether we care about them – we do not, of course – and whether the money they make from working for us is worth their lives. The mere fact that 10 French dead matter so much in Afghanistan – when 10 Afghan villagers matter so little when they are killed off in our anti-Taliban air raids – speaks mountains about our love for the Muslims of this towering, massive landscape.

In reality, we care as much about the Afghans of Afghanistan as we care about the Iraqis of Iraq and the Algerians of Algeria.

I remember well, with great sadness, how we cared nothing for the babies whose throats were slashed by so-called Islamists (some of whom, it turned out, worked for the government) in Algeria, giving the statistics of dead children rather than their names. I printed the names of these poor babies. And it was to the shame of their murderers – and to the government whose savage butchers participated in these outrageous acts – that they cared nothing for them.