21/01/2013 Newsnight


What will be Britain's role in the fight against terrorism in North Africa? Newsnight reports from Mali and also revisits events in Syria.

Similar Content

Browse content similar to 21/01/2013. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



Tonight, after the could have fips and the wreckage of the Algerian


hostage crisis, the Prime Minister sets out his plan for fighting


international terrorism. More than ever this evolving threat demands


an international response. It must be one that is tough, intelligent,


patient, and based on strong international partnerships.


It sounded like an important change of strategy, but what will it


amount to in practice? We will hear from diplomats, soldiers and


analysts whether Africa is the new frontline in an endless campaign.


From relatives mourning those they loved. But we actually had to find


out for ourselves, we were not given any official information. It


was through Facebook of all things that we found out of Kenny's demise.


We are in Mali, on the streets of newly-liberated Diabaly.


TRANSLATION: We heard the helicopters, so did the rebels,


most of them ran to hide in the houses nearby, afterwards the


rebels told us they just want to impose Sharia Law here. Plus, in


Syria, where foren intervention is off the international agenda,


devastation and apparent normality, just minutes away from each other


in the city of Homs. The final death toll in the


Algerian oil siege is unknown, it could be 48 dead, at least three


British. The Prime Minister in a tone some found reminiscent of Tony


Blair after 9/11, promised a long, hard fight and an intelligent


political response. To the terrorist threat against British


workers interests and allies. And what might that all mean, and with


Barack Obama telling Americans on his Inaugration Day that a decade


of war is now over, what kind of leadership can we now expect. We


begin our coverage on the new frontline of the conflict on Mali,


where French troops push back Islamist rebels from the town of


Diabaly, the beginning of what could be a long and difficulty


conflict. We report on a day of triumph for the French, and


setbacks for the rebels. France takes another step deeper


into this conflict. Crossing here into what was rebel-held territory


in central Mali. We have come with them to the down of Diabaly,


controlled until this weekend by Islamist militants, some may still


be in the area. The French quickly begin to check


the nearby houses. But the population seems relaxed now. And


relieved. They are keen to show us the


wreckage of their week-long ordeal. TRANSLATION: These are pick-up


trucks, destroyed by French helicopters, two Jihadists were


killed here. We find seven more charred vehicles nearby. They were


hit with great precision, French Special Forces presumably helping


to direct the air strikes. TRANSLATION: We heard the


helicopters, so did the rebels, most of them ran to hide in the


houses nearby. Afterwards the rebels told us they just want to


impose Sharia Law here. What do you think of Sharia Law? TRANSLATION:


We don't want it. It doesn't suit us here. The Islamists chose to


attack this town for a reason. This is it, the army garrison, packed


with weapons, and not nearly as well guarded as you might expect.


The rebels, some suggest more than 100 of them, seized the town in a


day. The Islamists have left now, French air strikes clearly did


their job. But before they left the rebels had every chance to loot


this huge arsenal, giving them plenty of weapons for the war ahead.


Right now the battle here is over, but Mali's hit-and-run insurgency


may be just beginning. So who were the men who came to


Diabaly? We found only one unidentifiable body. But more have


been buried in town. The rebels' survivors withdrew across these


fields heading east, according to the French. After a year of defeats,


the mally army seems keen to chase after them now. TRANSLATION:


around us it is fine, with the help of French troops it is reassuring.


But we must search and search for more, there may still be a few


pockets of enemy resistance. French politely insist they are


keen to let Mali's demoralised army do its share of the fighting here.


But from what we have learned in Diabaly today, it is clear this


army is part of the problem. This soldier, Dioncounda Traore, has


agreed to show me why, he's based at the garrison, and hid in town


when it was overrun. The Islamists came to his home here


to look for him, and trashed his belongings. He says some of the


rebels are foreign Jihadist, but he knows others are former colleagues


from his own army unit. Do you know the names of these people, would


you recognise them? TRANSLATION: Yes, they defected last year when


the Tuareg started their rebellion. When they came back last week they


were Islamist, I think they are just after money. People believe


the rebels are rich. Outside another soldier confirmed the story.


TRANSLATION: Yes, many of our comrades became our enemies, now we


will hunt them down and kill them all.


The threat posed by foreign Islamist militants is real here,


but the fact that some of the men who appear to have attacked this


town were actually former members of the Mali army is a reminder of


how many of this country's problems are home-grown.


No simple solutions here, then, for Mali's complex mercury rebellion.


-- murky rebellion. I'm joined now by the editor of the


BBC of a frik ka service, which broadcasts too in French to Africa.


Can Mali actually be stablised, do you think? That is the difficult


and complex question to answer now. What the French and the mally army,


and later on the west African troops, will be doing, is to at


least secure the south. So far that is what they are doing, the north


is still under the control of the insurgent s, the Islamist, part of


it. The other answer is political, if you go south of Mali where there


is a President, this President is really fragile in his ruling. It is


an interim President, put there by the west African leaders, because


there was a coup in March, right before the democratic elections,


and then you have the north issues, which are not just the Islamist


insurgent issue, it is a Tuareg issue, it is a Malian issue. Do the


mallyian Tuareg have pushed out the Islamist insurgents to be -- will


the mallyian army who have pushed out the Islamist terrorists be able


to solve the Tuareg issue, which is more complicated than the Islamist


issue. I wonder what is at stake for the neighbours, I don't just


mean Algeria and Morocco, but those to the south, it must be a


difficult situation for awful them? That is why the west African army


wanted to go in. They can't go in, because it is complicated. If you


take the Tuareg issue, it is not only Mali, it is also Moritania,


which doesn't want to be involved at all in the mally operation. Then


you have Niger, which has its own Tuareg problems, where they were


able there to sort out the issues there. Then you have all the small


countries, which are all stable but in a fragile state. They are all


worried? About the Islamist insurgents, if you push them out of


Mali they might find somewhere else in there, which is as vast as the


European continent, where will they go next? Because Algeria is


blocking its border, then it would be difficult for other countries by


themselves to secure their own desert area. We will pick up some


of those issues in a moment. Relatives of those missing after


terrorists stormed the gas plant in Algeria have spent an agonising few


days trying to get information, and sadly, for some, their worst fears


have been realised. The White Tiger family found out about their son


and brother's death through Facebook. We met up and asked about


the circumstances of finding out about their brother's killing.


know now what's happened to Kenny, and we actually had to find out for


our selves, we were not given any official information. It was


through Facebook, of all things, that we found south of Kenny's


demise. It was my daughter found it on


Facebook, a message from an Algerian co-worker. So, if you like


a, an unofficial confirmation, you didn't get anything official from


the authorities? The police came last night and informed us that


what was on Facebook was true, that Kenny had been, he was executed.


Can I say before we go on, I'm very sorry for your loss, and I'm very


grateful for you speaking to us in these circumstances. Can I ask you


what you feel about the way that the situation was handled in


Algeria? Well, it is just the way life is, I'm afraid. I don't hold


any grudges against Algeria and the army or anything, that's the way


they work. That's their system. They weren't bothered about the


hostages as such, they just wanted to get the camp cleared of all the


terrorists. That was the main objective. As far as I could see.


Had Kenny been working out there for some time? It must be about


five years, I think, he has been working in Algeria. And in that


time had he expressed any concerns about safety, about how their


safety was, and how they were protected out there? That sort of


thing never bothered Kenny. He has worked all over the world, he just


didn't think about it. So he was well used to working in difficult


places, and trouble spots? Yes, more or less. He has worked all


over Africa, Zambia, South Africa, Russia's been around. He knew what


the game was all about. What was the job that he did? He was


actually he went out there as a fitter to trade, with Babcock &


Wilcox but worked himself up. His official title was planning manager,


project manager. He was head hunted, he was obviously very good at his


job, he was head hunted for a few jobs. In the light of what's


happened, and we hear this morning that there is quite a high death


toll amongst the hostages, what are your feelings about what needs to


be done to protect men and women that are out there in similar


circumstances in the future? honestly don't think you could do


anything. Not any more than was done already. They had security


guards, but you can't guard every installation all over the world,


just because of these fanatics. If they are going to attack, they will


do it, you know. What has happened in Algeria and Mali is all at the


same time an international incident, a security to energy -- security


threat to energy companies, and danger to local people, and a


threat to Governments. With David Cameron promising a response that


is tough, intelligent and patient, and based on international


partnerships. We're going to assess some of the options open to Mr


Cameron and other Government leaders. It sounds like it is a


very big change for Mr Cameron, is it, in terms of strategy? You would


certainly think so, from the statement he gave in the palace of


Westminster today. He was quite explicit about a number of themes.


You got a sense from him of a certain focus, or priority that was


once really dominating our security considerations giving way to


another. That was articulated quite clearly in the Commons. This attack


underlines the threat that terrorist groups pose to the


countries and peoples of that region, and to our citizens, our


companies and our interests too. Four years ago the principal threat


from Islamist extremism came from the Afghanistan and Pakistan region.


A huge amount has been done to address and reduce the scale of


that threat. Where as at one point three-quarters of the most serious


terrorist plots against the UK had links to that region, today this


has reduced to less than half. Listening to that, you could think


that he was suggesting that as UK forces draw down in Afghanistan


over the next year or year-and-a- half, the UK will increasingly be


ready to put its shoulder to the wheel in North Africa? We heard


from Brahimi a few moments ago, about what is at stake in Africa.


Could Britain play a part in shaping the whole regional


strategy? It could play a part. But there are all sorts of barriers to


how extensive and influential a part it could play. This draw down


in Afghanistan isn't happening quite as quickly as the ramping up


you might want in North Africa if you were really going to put troops


on the ground. That very point is clearly one of some sensitivity to


Downing Street. They are not out to send hundreds of troops in there


straight away. They are trying to work to build up relationships,


diplomatic, intelligence, military- to-military, the sort of thing they


have been doing in quite a few African countries. There are some


really difficult challenges here. Most particularly, the attitudes of


the host Government, the all goreian Government, we saw their


attitude -- Algerian Government, we saw their attitude to those trying


to get involved in the negotiating and political level in the crisis.


They will be very reluctant to take in the outside forces, and France


and others have stronger security ties with them. Libya, of course,


NATO very involved there in overthrowing the Gaddafi regime,


but they have been reluctant to accept military advisers from NATO


countries. It is a delicate atmosphere operating there even, it


would be hard for the UK to put its very limited resources, diplomatic,


intelligence whatever into this sensitive scenario. Lots of legal


potential difficulties too. On the intelligence side, the Algerian


Government, the way it treats terrorist subjects, quite strict


rules on what intelligence we could share with them. Where is the


United States on this? The US appears ready to look at a great


many international crises that develop now from the sidelines.


President Obama was inaugurated today for his second term, and this


sense of his focus so much being on the domestic, was quite clearly in


the peach -- clear in the speech he gave at his inauguration. This


generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our


resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An


economic recovery has begun. clearly he wants to keep the focus


domestic, economic, social. He doesn't want to involve himself in


new wars, we know that from the past year. That has implications


for North Africa, it also has implications for Iran, and the


world much more widely, siria. Potentially a very significant


statement from Syria. Potentially a very significant statement from


President Obama today. We have a former UK ambassador in Washington


with us, we have the a former US Ambassador for the United Nations,


we have an Algerian born political analyst, he advises companies that


operate in the region. And the CEO of Keyhaven, who specialise in


crisis management, former director of defence management in the MoD.


Your roots are in the region, how serious do you think the issue s or


is it anything less than banditry? It is a serious threat to the


region and international security. You have a region that is


increasingly unstable as a result of some of the power vacuums have


taken place, or that are currently in place in Libya and northern Mali.


You have terrorists, or Jihadi groups have been able to utilise


this new safe haven, this vast territory that is uncontrolled, and


poorly monitored, in terms of surveillance, by the states, and to


utilise that, not only for financial gain through the drug


trade, and through arms proliferation, but also through the


type of techniques we have seen now in these kinds of hostage crises.


You were also involved in the threat assessment business, we have


heard everything from cigarette snugling, drug running, the arms


business, to just making a profit out of hostages. It is difficult to


distinguish that from what seems to be happening now, which we are also


told there are links to the establishment of a Kalafate


throughout north Africa. Is this a quantitatively different threat


from just the banditry? It indicate the number of shared incentives,


and what we will see is a kol alllessing and breaking apart of


different movements. The analogy I would like to use is it is like a


balloon, you squeeze it in one place and you get an expansion


somewhere else. Going back to late 2001, the operation in Afghanistan,


you had people seeking refuge in Pakistan and Yemen, you squeeze


them in Yemen and then Somalia, that is getting better, and they go


elsewhere. This is a concerted effort working with other


Governments, if necessary behind the scenes. The incentives for the


bad people are many, and the interests are many. Do you think


there is an ideolgical underpinning to some of this? To some of this.


To a certain extent. 0 these groups are using this narrative to --


these groups are using the narrative to create a network in


the region. They have been able to attract militants from Boko Haram,


from Nigeria, a narrative that bring these groups to a shared


interests. If this is such a big threat, shouldn't we have seen it


coming? Absolutely. I think it was predictable as an outcome of the


Libya vacuum. This is the underbelly of the Arab Spring. You


are seeing a rise up, after the end of the Cold War, of all these


tensions coming forward. The fact that the Tuaregs were heavily armed


to protect Gaddafi, and then decided to go home, should have


been a trigger point for stronger international intervention in the


north to try to make sure that we nipped this in the bud. We were,


the world was looking elsewhere, and really we have a triple tragedy


going on, the Tuaregs moving in with arms, the Islamists taking


over, and the Government being over thrown in Bamako, it is a perfect


storm and the people of Mali pay the price. We heard President Obama


making what was largely a big domestic speech on his Inaugration


Day, I wondered if it was a case of the American administration, the


British, tired of war in Afghanistan, not really wanting to


know about this. If it was right under our noses? I wouldn't read


too much into the lack of a long and foreign policy speech on an


inaugural speech. It was a short speech, there was a few sentences


about democracy throughout Africa and the need to make sure we


address the problems there, and finish the war. We are tired of war,


we have been at war for over ten years in Afghanistan, and finally


got out of Iraq. The American people are very wary of it. No


President in his inaugural will talk much about it. President Obama


understands the need to make sure there is not another safe haven for


Al-Qaeda in the heart of Africa. I think you will see a stronger


action on this. But don't expect much in the big speeches. I think


you will see him moving forward on many of these fronts. How serious


do you view this, and is it serious enough that, despite the reluck


tannance on the British Government's part, -- reluctance on


the British Government's part, we will see boots on the ground at


some point in the region? If there are going to be boots on the ground


at some point, there must be a very clear military objective for the


action. One of the things we have learned from Afghanistan, is troops


without a clear political plan are a west of time. That is why we have


not made the -- a waste of time. That is why we haven't made the


progress in Afghanistan we would have liked to make. We had Iraq a


Millerry -- military push and it led to the war of unintended


consequences. What about the French? Is it just a short-term


military operation to hold the line until the African troops turn up,


or are they intending to create a political ring in which there can


be some kind of negotiation between the Tuaregs in the north, who want


independence, or autonomy, and the Government in the south. This is


not yet clear, until these things are clear, you shouldn't even think


of putting boots on the ground. That is, you put your finger on the


nub of it. There are 2,000 French troops on the ground, you have


boots on the ground. The French are going to find it very difficult to


come in very late with very few troops. They have 2,000, they said


maybe 4,000. So they are in there. I think it is going to get very


messy. What should have happened is the US, France, the international


community could have reinforced the mally Government to address the --


Mali Government to address the Tuareg initial phases of the


military and get immediately into negotiations. The Tuaregs have


tired over decades from Bamako of more development in the north that


have never come to fruition. What you have to have is the French who


need help, the west Africans come in, there is not many capable west


Africans they can fight, they can certainly help secure peace. It


will eventually be turned over to a UN operation. Kprair this to the


Ivory Coast, when -- compare this to the Ivory Coast when they had


17,000 troops there and the French had more troops going in, it will


be messy before it gets better. terms of the messiness, you talked


about presumably having a negotiation between a Government in


the mally capital and the taurs, except this is a Government that


came to power because of military coup, and the one-eyed cigarette


dialer who is responsible for this is not -- dealer who is responsible


for this is not able to negotiate? This has as many layers as a club


sandwich. There isn't a threat for the west, there are threats. What


we faced in Algeria was a sovereign state with a capable military force


and Special Forces has been against oil and gas installations where


Brits are working who have been tragically killed, that was a


specific British interest, go to Mali and you have a failed state.


It is not clear they can be put back together again. The threat is


different in Algeria from in Mali, from elsewhere in the countries.


The one thing we have to watch out for, where there is another British


interest, does it infect, more than you refer to, Nigeria? Can we talk


about the options, particularly the military option right now. You have


got 40 armed people, apparently, going to attack a remote plant,


with 6600 civil -- 600 civilian workers under a good security


apparatus, it is hard to see how you can protect these exposed


plants from people who don't care how many they kill or how they die


themselves? I agree, there is no such thing as perfect and complete


protection. What all the different oil and gas interests will need to


be reassured about is the continuing and ined effort to


protect their people. In the short- term they can increase promises


security, they can clampdown on people's movement, the engineers


going to and fro. Come back to your point, if you have a really


determined bunch of people who have planned the operation for some time,


they have arms and weapons on their side, there is not much that can


stand in their way. But, there is more which can be done. My own


personal experience relates to some of the borders, physically the


borders between the countries. I remember for instance, for example,


two or three years ago on the border between Algeria and Libya,


and going down to view a border crossing point, deep in The Sahara.


What was interesting to me is the fact that place closed up at night.


One could see hundreds of sets of footprints, illegal movement across


the border. More can be done in a cheap and cheerful way. Not to


solve the problem, but at least to bear down and make the borders less


porous. I wondered whether the context of this is, is there an


African solution to what is fundamentally an African problem?


Ultimately the Africans are going to need to solve these problems.


The problem is right now in the short-term crises, they don't have


the military capacity to move. The UN has authorised 3,000 troops to


go into northern Mali, recognising in the same resolution that they


are not capable of doing so. To the hostage crisis in Algeria, first of


all, our hearts go out to those who have lost their lives, it is a


tragedy. But you are going to watch obviously heightened security


around any kind of foreign oil installation. But you will watch,


and the all goreians have a history of a counter punch on these kinds


of things, they will go after many of these militants, it is likely to


get blody. Ultimately you will have to have kiebd -- bloody, ultimately


vul to have some kind of engagment on these issues. We know withhold


hold, he went to Algeria and didn't apologise, quite, and said France


had done some terrible things. And the UN mandate stipulated this was


an African problem to be solved by Africans, revolving the situation


was a job for them, and that they hadn't learned a single lesson. Is


it a post colonial problem so it is difficult for outsiders to get


involved? It depends who you are asking. One thing for sure, the UN


mandate and the plan to give Africans the full control of the


situation, and have them intervene in Mali, came too late. The delay,


which the African force could only intervene in September, and said it


could only intervene in September. No western powers stepped up to the


plate, like France, for example, to facilitate their preparation for an


operation. That delay gave these terror groups,s they Jihadi groups,


the window and mandate they needed, to prepare -- these Jihadi groups,


the window and mandate they needed to prepare for the assault on


Bamako. One of the key things France should have done was put


more power, and western states, more power in the hands of African


state. What do you think of that? The trouble of this, I will go back


on something that was said, you can empower the UN to authorise


thousands of west African troops to come in and hold the line, but they


actually aren't militarily capable and don't have the logistics to do


it. Time and time again they show themselves want anything this


respect. Doesn't that say to the French you have to do something now,


your point is we have to figure out what we are doing there politically,


presumably, as seen from the Elysee, this is something that can't wait


and you have to get in? Ten or 15 years Agatha might have been an


automatic response on the part of the French. I think at the moment


budget cuts, plus colonial sensibilities make this a much more


difficult thing for the French to do than it might have been a


generation ago. That is one of the reasons you have this gap. Heaven


knows, 2,500 French troops, what difference in the long-term will


that make? I think the colonial problem you asked about a moment


ago is an on going responsibility to clean up certain problems. You


had Sierra Leone in the 1990s, the British went in there. You had most


recently the French in the Ivory Coast, we do Liberia. And since the


Africans are not yet capable of doing so, we are trying to train


them and get them up to speed, but it is another 10-20 years away, we


will always get called in. We wait too long to do it. In this case had


we reinforced the Government and got them up the north, perhaps,


this could have been nipped in the bud. But so long as there are these


crises and the Africans are not capable of addressing them, the


colonial challenge is it is hard to stand on the sidelines when you


have a human tragedy. You will see this going on. They were asked to


go in? They went in unilaterally. Do you see really room for


negotiation there? We talked about negotiating and the problems of the


Tuareg people and so on, but the actual people doing the killing, it


seems quite difficult to understand how you would negotiate anything


that they would want that you could possibly give them? A couple of


things. Somebody who has put this pair of boots in the ground on a


number of place, partly towards your point, Sir Christopher, the


military on its own can never be a solution on its own. Point number


two, to your point about the negotiation, yes, one must take a


longer term stance. Whilst there are people who went be swayed there


are people with different incentives and perhaps could see


where power shifts and could reorientate themselves to a more


benign way of living. This is not a totally homogeneous group, you have


mandatory smugglers, you have Tuaregs who want autonomy or


independence, you have the Jihadists moved by ideolgical moat


vagues. The purpose of negotiation is to split off, to divide this


coalition of groups. They don't have a lot instrinsically in common,


and try to -- intrinsicly in common and try to do deals with them.


Algeria pushed for that position early on to prefer the political


solution and negotiate with the groups that distinguish themselves


with others, and who had genuine grievances in the context of Mali,


for example, to differentiate them from other groups operating from


the 1990s in Algeria and elsewhere, with the Jihadi network. It is


important to make that point, I think.


Thank you all very much. To another significant part of this


arc of instability, stretching across Afghanistan, Syria. Barack


Obama's leadership, or some would say lack of it, has come under fire


in Washington, including the Washington Post newspaper. There is


no sign of direct action in that conflict, despite the daily


killings and misery. Almost a year ago the Syrian forces began a


sustained attack on Homs to drive out opposition fighters. We


reported last year, and we have returned to find out how it has


changed today. Some of the heaviest fighting of Syria's war happened


here. This neighbourhood, Baba Amr, came to symbolise a brutal conflict.


A ferocious Government offensive, after the opposition took up


positions here, was an assault on an entire community. Now, nearly


one year on, life is slowly returning to Baba Amr.


Rubbish collectors are on the job. A small sign the Government is back


on the street. That some families are starting to come home. I asked


him how life was here? He said it couldn't be better.


Stealing an anxious look at the soldiers escorting us.


A repair shop is back in business. It is not much of a bicycle, but


the man made it work. It is what life is like here.


TRANSLATION: Services are very good, before life was more difficult. But


now things are getting better day by day. It is still a fragile calm.


But good enough for children to play hopscotch on the treat --


street. Even they don't take notice when guns go off in the distance.


It is part of their life now. Scenes like this make you wonder,


what's it like to grow up here? The opposition is still present, still


fighting in other parts of Homs. (gunfire) Even in areas closer to


the city centre, it is like a ghost town. The battle for Homs isn't


over. No-one's really winning, no- one's really closing. When we came


here last spring this was no man's land, it still is. The Government


on this side, this is the historic old city. It has been under siege


for months. You can hear the crackle of gunfire right now.


Opposition fighters lie down these lanes, but so do civilians, trapped


in the middle. The old city has long been cherished by the people


of Homs. Look at it now. We couldn't travel in, this video


posted by activists on YouTube shows the toll a year-long siege


has taken on Homs's heritage. And the people who still live here, in


dire conditions. Aid agencies have been trying to get in for months.


Just minutes away, it feels like a different city. Even hard to


believe there is a war. Most of the people who live here back the


Government. It is predominantly Alawite, the same sect as President


Assad. Al-Mashei Pizzeria seems to be doing fine.


The owner tells me in areas loyal to the Government, life is good.


Even here, he says, they feel the effects of the war.


TRANSLATION: Not a month goes by without me having to close for


three or four days, either there is no gas, people aren't going out, or


because of the rockets. And there's a place to complain. At


the governor's office, local people air their grievances to the man in


charge. This mantles the Governor of Several requests, the most


important is bread, plus gas, fuel, water. It covers pretty well


everything. The governor reassures them their needs will be met. Then


it is my turn to ask questions. I put it to him that he's running a


divided city? TRANSLATION: Can you judge the situation of Homs by


looking at a few kilometres, a couple of neighbourhoods, Homs is a


big province, like the size of Holland, if you couldn't visit one


street, does that mean all of Homs is troubled? The areas that the


streets where there is still trouble and fighters, what are you


planning to do, are you going to push in there as well? As in you


did in Baba Amr to clear the I can't remember? TRANSLATION:


didn't do anything in Baba Amr. It wasn't us who did all this in Baba


Amr, it was these armed terrorist groups who kidnap the civilians and


blow up the buildings, the army had to push them out. We didn't blow up


the buildings. He receives the Greek or the docks head, before the


war there was people of all sects living in harmony. Here as


elsewhere, battles are drawn on sectarian lines. The bishop wants


to send a different message. belong to, not to this side or that


side, I'm in the middle. But I think that it is my epistle to the


world, that here in Syria we are not looking at each other as if we


are different groups, or different, let's say, religions, fighting each


other. But war is tearing at the fabric of


this city, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. We tried to advise


the mainly Sunni area of Derbalba, the Government told us it was too


dangerous, even though the Government took it back last month.


Much of Homs is under their control again, for now. But so much has


been lost here. There is so little trust. There is a checkpoint now on


almost every corner. This one is being manned by women. They call


themselves "The Lioness's" loyal to a President whose name means "the


lion". They are part of called Popular Committees, set up by the


Government to reinforce security. Putting a brave face on this war.


But there is no hiding what's gone on in Homs. What's happened across


Syria, and what more is still to come.


The kinds of conditions we found in Homs have echos elsewhere in Syria,


including Aleppo and Damascus. We have a PhD student in economics


at Brunel university and former residents in Syria. Did the scenes


in the piece correspond to how your family is living? It reminded me of


how my family are living back home in different places in Syria.


Giving you an example of my city, Deraa, it has been surrounded by


Assad forces for over 70 days now. 200,000 people fled out of this


city to the surrounding areas. They left without food, with lack of


fuel and water and heating, with this cold weather. Children dying


from hunger and cold weather. have not been back for about two


years. When you get sent pictures, or see pictures of where you are


from, the streets that you know so well, do you recognise it? Actually,


here is the very sad part of that, to be honest, when I look at some


pictures coming from my city, looking at the street, thinking


where is that street, do I know this city, is this actually my city.


It is like all the buildings are destroyed, schools and mosques and


all this, I don't recognise it. said 200,000 people have left the


city, you said they went to the surrounding area, to do what? Where


are they living? How are they living? They are living a miserable


life. They are living in the surrounding areas, like it's forest


or something like that, or other cities. Some how it is safer, but


they are living on very, very minor basis of life. They are struggling


to get bread, water and food and all these things. The electricity


is shut for ten hours, and it is like some of friends boasting on


Facebook saying if we are -- saying on Facebook, if they are not dying


from the rockets or the bullets but from the cold. On the one hand in


the film you see the awful scenes, and on the other hand you see


people eating pizzas, admittedly they can't always make them. Is


there a degree of normal life going on? In certain areas, but they are


pro-Assad, so the Government let them live their lives, they don't


interfere. One shout in an area, saying" Assad down", or" Assad step


down", or "free Syria", you will see massive bullets and massive put


down. Why aren't you treating your people equally? How long do you


think it will go on for, it must seem endless to you? To be honest


we don't know how long this will go on. As long as the fighting is


between the two parties, it is going on and on, it might go for


years, or it might end tomorrow. Nobody knows. So it should be like


some solution other than war. Now a quick look at tomorrow


morning's front page, quite a few The MoD is supporting French


efforts through logistical support, ministers are reviewing the