AP deems terrorist ransom demands “pragmatic”January 27, 2013
Starting off with a headline claiming that Belmokhtar preferred making money to killing hostages, the AP further asserts that Belmokhtar was “known as the more pragmatic and less brutal of the commanders of an increasingly successful offshoot of al-Qaeda,” that “those who have dealt directly with him say his cell has never executed a captive,” and that Belmokhtar denounced actions that “caused many civilian casualties.”
Any exceptions to this history of Belmokhtar’s alleged benevolence, intimates the AP, may have involved friendly fire by security forces attempting to rescue hostages. The AP inserts this whiff of suspicion about the rescuers twice in the article saying, “It’s unclear if the two died from friendly fire,” and later on, “It’s unclear how many were killed by friendly fire.” Just once, couldn’t the AP have written, “It’s unclear how many were killed by Belmokhtar’s men”?
The AP does not even seem to consider that Belmokhtar may use the money from ransoms to purchase more arms, recruit and train more terrorist operatives, and carry out more abductions and terrorist attacks that kill people. The AP appears to cast Belmokhtar’s motives as primarily financial without identifying his religious and ideological motivations. Why didn’t Belmokhtar pursue a career as a businessman, or even as a crime boss, rather than as a terrorist, if his motives were mostly financial?
The one saving grace in this well-researched but sadly biased article comes in the dead last paragraph—the least important paragraph for journalists:
“Before he led this operation in Algeria, that was the sentiment I had, that Belmokhtar was less brutal,” [hostage negotiator Moustapha Chaffi] said by telephone on Friday. “Now I find myself thinking that they are all terrorists. That they all take hostages. That they are all fanatics. So to draw a difference between them is really, really relative. There’s in fact no difference anymore.”
That insight should have been the lead paragraph.