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What a terrible terrible situation. It is such compelling news. We really are not safe, whether ardent or veteran travellers, there are things that we just simply cannot plan for, or control.
It has certainly made me stop and think about the preciousness of life/freedom, and the dangers of travel.
My thoughts are with the couple, and I hope they are keeping strong in body and spirit. Also to their friends and family. Lets pray and/or hope it is all over before too long. All I have is words and thoughts, and I send them all.
Is it bullshit? I don't think so. What Kakpraat means (which by the way translates as "talking shit", you must be SA, LOL), I think is that there is no point in worrying about this, (not the same as not caring about it) with the result that you may stop doing what you like best and stay home in stead! Is travelling in North Africa now suddenly less safe than 4 weeks ago? I don't know. But I do know that I know (or rather knew) 5 guys who died from regular motor bike accidents and I don't know anybody who died by the hand of terrorists! I have no plans of going to Tunisia or Algeria but I do have plans to go to Morocco! Should I cancel these plans? Should I stay home and watch Travel Channel in stead or maybe re-runs of the LWD? I don't think so.
Is travelling in North Africa now suddenly less safe than 4 weeks ago? I don't know.
You probably forgot several recent developments: tourists killed in Mauritania, unrest in Algeria (killed policemen) and several routes closed to tourists, in Egypt tourist cars hijacked at gun point, killed tourists in Yemen, unrest in Mali, Niger etc. Now tourists kidnapped in Tunisia.
To me it is clearly less safe now than a year ago.
The problem is, that what kakpraat has written also exists before, while and after the abduction. Even if Africa was before a little bit safer than now, things could happen as kakpraat writes. But now the situation is more dangerous than before, Rebaseonu wrote what has happened last time.
Is this all normal way in Africa? No, I don't think so.
And this "extra" risks are the problem, not the risk of falling out of the bed and come to death.
I agree with Ulrich at least for independent travels in remot regions, following is why:
Independent travellers in remote desert regions are only a small number compared to mass tourism in Tunisia or Morocco. Remote desert regions are much more difficult to secure than urban regions. Thus as independent traveller in remote desert regions you are much more exposed. Travelling w/o guide increase the risk further. There might be 10'000 tourists per year in the Tunisian militray zone compared to may be 10'000 per week in Djerba.
Looking back to 2003 about half of the kidnappings only happened because tourist were not reached by warnings or ignoring serious warnings given.
Muslims of Al-Qaeda, Islamic Morocco
The latest statement signs itself as above but IMO don't be too freaked out by the 'Morocco' bit - it has been mistranslated or misinterpreted as 'Maghreb' [all of North Africa] as AQIM is called elsewhere.
So this reply isn't bringing any news about the event.
But I did want to ask a few questions which may be of interest to the Sahara travellers.
Assuming the abductions happened in Tunisia and that the group is now in Mali, I have been wondering why the abductions happened in Tunisia in the first place. It is difficult to get a group that big involving at least 3 vehicles all the way through Algeria without the possibility of detection. It is certainly harder to do this than it is to abduct a group making their way from Tam to Mali in any case. We spent a few days in Tam just after new year. In that time 3 separate groups of European tourists (one involving a BBC journalist) headed down the piste to Mali. So why take these people in Tunisia when there are easy picking rolling through anyway? Is it simply to make a mark on Tunisian tourism? If so, there must be easier ways to make that mark operationally than this. And if it is simply about having a go at Europeans in Tunisia (in doing so making it clear that holiday destinations are risky) then is it not possible that Morocco is on the list too?
A difference between this event and 2003 seems to be that the news of the abductions has happened relatively quickly and that therefore only 2 people seem to have been taken. More could presumably have been taken given time but making the abductions known reduces the chances of that. Is this because the logistics of taking of 32 or 33 in 2003 was too difficult and that 2 are as good politically as 32? And does nationality within Europe make any difference? Is there significance attached to Austria? Is the response of the Austrian government known to be different?
As you know all tourists in Alg have an escort now and possibly an itinerary lodged somewhere. Grab them there and the alarm is raised sooner I imagine. Although some concerned emails were knocking about in Feb these guys were missing in Tuni for two weeks before the alarm was fully raised on the web (once their boat has been missed?) - and were only declared kidnapped 6 days ago.
IMO Tuni is a softer border with Alg compared to Maroc (long time closed and mutual antagonists) and also the adjacent area of NE Algeria is a long established GSPC/AQ-M region (cf. that attack north of El Oued a few weeks ago.) Picking them out of the lonely Grand Erg was the way to do it, not off the Touzeur road.
It is difficult to get a group that big involving at least 3 vehicles all the way through Algeria without the possibility of detection
This is what I always think but maybe we dont get it: after all you drove thru Alg checkpoints at night unchallenged in your recent S-File report, smugglers seem roam around and the GSPC managed (or were allowed to do) a similarly vast transit in 2003 somehow.
It may well be that, like that 'technical' in the Gilf or that attack on a patrol near Gallaouia (sp.) east of Guelb in Mori (just after the French were killed) that they are prepared to shoot their way out. TBH I've never seen a well armed patrol in the Alg desert - just the odd green & white on the piste and well-known checkpoints with AKs.
I always imagine some 'Syriana' spy satellite could pick them out and track them but only once they know someone was missing.
that 2 are as good politically as 32?
I guess it is. I head last time there was a fall out with two GSPC-ers about making a small or large statement. Plan B won the day.
And does nationality within Europe make any difference?
I also heard that french tourists were passed by in 2003 - but possibly because the groups were too large or could it be that Fr reaction would be more direct.
Is there significance attached to Austria?
Dont know - wrong place at the wrong time? I just hope the threatened deadline due right now passes without event.
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