WHY are government ministers so stupid?
On Monday I asked this about UK involvement in Mali. The Government Minister brushed my warning aside. I am a backbencher, he is a minister armed with the quality information and advice of the Foreign Office. I was right. He was wrong. The result is that one UK citizen has died, several are hostages.
Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Why us again? We have no post-colonial obligations to Mali. Even without mission creep, we are already exposed to possible terrorist reprisals because of the actions that we have taken. We have seen 618 British lives lost in two wars where there was little direct threat to British interests. Why are the Government so eager to put at risk the lives of British citizens in order to become the policeman of the world?
Mark Simmonds: The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to hear that I do not share his analysis. As we have discussed, there are serious concerns not just in the UK, but in Europe and the rest of international community. China and Russia are concerned about what is happening as well. We are right to provide limited logistical support to the French, who are taking the lead because of their historical links with Mali. The two main reasons we are doing this are security and to support the region in ensuring that the conflict does not spread.
Possible terrorist reprisal? we did not have long to wait.
Islamist militants have attacked and occupied a gas facility in Algeria, killing a Briton and an Algerian and taking foreign workers hostage.
Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould Kabila said troops had surrounded the living quarters at In Amenas, where some 20 people were being held.
Norwegian, French, British, US and Japanese citizens are among them.
Mr Ould Kabila said the militants wanted to leave Algeria with the hostages, which he would not allow.
Earlier, the AFP news agency quoted one worker as saying the militants had demanded the release of 100 Islamist prisoners. Another report said they wanted France to end its military operation in Mali.
We've asked the Algerian authorities to put the life and health of the hostages above all”
'Very dangerous situation'
At a news conference on Wednesday evening, Mr Kabila said a heavily armed "terrorist group" using three vehicles had attacked a bus carrying workers from In Amenas at about 05:00 (04:00 GMT).
The attackers was repelled by police who had been escorting the bus, but a Briton and an Algerian national had been killed, he said. Two other British nationals, a Norwegian, two police officers and a security guard were also hurt in the firefight, he added.
Afterwards, the militants drove to the gas facility's living quarters and took a number of Algerian and foreign workers hostage. They were being held in one wing of the living quarters, which the security services and army had now surrounded, Mr Kabila said.