Transcript of Prime Minister's interview on 20 January 2013: "I spoke to the Algerian prime minister yesterday, and it is now clear that this appalling terrorist incident in Algeria is now over."
David Cameron, Prime Minister
Good morning. I spoke to the Algerian prime minister yesterday, and it is now clear that this appalling terrorist incident in Algeria is now over. Tragically, we now know that three British nationals have been killed, and a further three are believed to be dead, and also a further British resident is also believed to be dead. I know the whole country will want to join with me in sending our sympathy and our condolences to the families who’ve undergone an absolutely dreadful ordeal and now face life without these very precious loved ones. The priority now must be to get everybody home from Algeria, in terms of this incident, and I have spoken this morning to our ambassador who’s in Algiers and, this morning, will be going again to the site of the country to help coordinate that absolutely vital activity.
Now, of course, people will ask questions about the Algerian response to these events, but I would just say that the responsibility for these deaths lies squarely with the terrorists who launched this vicious and cowardly attack. And I’d also say that when you’re dealing with a terrorist incident on this scale, with up to 30 terrorists, it is extremely difficult to respond and to get this right in every respect. This is a stark reminder, once again, of the threat we face from terrorism the world over. We have had successes in recent years in reducing the threat from some parts of the world, but the threat has grown, particularly in North Africa. This is a global threat and it will require a global response. It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months, and it requires a response that is patient, that is painstaking, that is tough but also intelligent, but above all has an absolutely iron resolve; and that is what we will deliver over these coming years. It will also require countries to work together, and I will use our chairmanship of the G8 this year to make sure this issue is right at the top of the agenda where it belongs.
Prime Minister, are you satisfied that everything that could have been done to save lives was done by the Algerian government?
Well, first we should just say very clearly; the responsibility for loss of life lies with the terrorists. They launched this vicious, this cowardly attack. And they wanted to take lives; they wanted to kill people; they wanted to do exactly that. And also, no one should underestimate the difficulties of responding to an attack on this scale with 30 terrorists absolutely determined to take lives, and we should recognise all that the Algerians have done to work with us and to help and coordinate with us, and I’d like to thank them for that. And we should also recognise that the Algerians too have seen lives lost amongst their soldiers. So I think it is very important to make that point.
Do you now believe that the threat to the UK from al-Qaeda in North Africa is as great as it was in Afghanistan a decade ago?
Well, it is different in scale but there are similarities. What we face is an extremist, Islamist, violent, al-Qaeda linked terrorist group. Just as we had to… have to deal with that in Pakistan and in Afghanistan, so the world needs to come together to deal with this threat in North Africa. It is similar because it is linked to al-Qaeda; it wants to destroy our way of life; it believes in killing as many people as it can. We’ve been very focussed on this issue, and have had National Security Council meetings on this issue, and we need to work with others to defeat the terrorists and to close down the ungoverned space where they thrive with all the means that we have. Thank you.
Prime Minister, thank you very much.