‘‘It is one-off episode, they got lucky,’’ said Riccardo Fabiani, North Africa analyst of the Eurasia group. ‘‘I would think that the next attacks are going to target other countries. Mauritania could be an easy target, Morocco or any ECOWAS country or possibly in Libya.’’
The attack has also pushed France and Algeria — two nations with fraught relations due to bloody colonial ties — closer together over the need to combat these groups.
Prior to the attack, Algeria had long publicly opposed France’s call for armed intervention to deal with the rise of extremist groups in northern Mali, citing the threat to regional stability and the chances of the crisis spilling over into its own desert regions.
Now, with the fight brought to Algeria’s doorstep, al-Qaida-linked groups will be facing their old implacable enemy once more.
Unlike other Western nations, French officials refused to criticize Algeria for its strong-fisted handling of the Ain Amenas hostage ordeal.
‘‘When a country is attacked in this way, and its own sovereignty is jeopardized, it decides on how to respond with its own army,’’ French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Sunday on France-5 TV.
Throwing more military operations at al-Qaida, however, is not going to solve the underlying problem, warned Lawrence, the North Africa analyst.
‘‘This is linked to the Libyan conflict, it’s linked to the Mali conflict, it’s linked to 50 years of struggle by the Tuareg, it’s linked to 20 years of struggle in Algeria,’’ he said.
Ultimately, he says, the countries of North and West Africa, not to mention Europe, will have to address the conditions that allowed al-Qaida to flourish in this impoverished region.
‘‘A security response is at best a partial response. Until a robust political, humanitarian and economic effort is implemented, the security effort won’t solve these problems,’’ Lawrence said.
Schemm reported from Rabat, Morocco.