Hague admits colonial approach to African terror problem

Britain, France and others will divide up Africa on colonial lines as western states address the growing terrorist threat from the Sahel region, William Hague has suggested.

The foreign secretary accepted former colonial powers were dividing up responsibilities along the historic lines which transformed the African continent in the 19th century.

He said the situation was complicated by the presence of a planned EU military training mission to Mali and the prime minister's dispatch of a special envoy to the unstable Sahel region.

"Nevertheless it is true that Britain is much more heavily represented [in Kenya] because of the myriad of connections, of individuals, families, businesses, as well as the history in countries like Somalia, Kenya and so on, than in Francophone west Africa," Hague told the Today programme.

"That is inevitable. We do have to work together. France supports so much of what we do in Somalia, we will work very closely in support of France in west Africa."

His comments could prompt questions from MPs when David Cameron updates the Commons on the situation in Algeria after the weekend's bloody end to the siege at the In Amenas gas installation in the Sahara Desert.

Yesterday 25 bodies were discovered at the site – all of which were thought to have been hostages. Around 80 people are now thought to have died on the site, including at least three British nationals and a British resident. Three further British nationals are missing and believed to have died.

Last night the prime minister warned efforts to address the growth of terrorism in the region would take a long time.

"It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months," he said.

"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."

The UK government will push for the same mixture of policies as used in Somalia, which has emerged from a 20-year period without any meaningful centralised government.

"We have managed to bring about, with strong Somali support, a legitimate government in Somalia, strong African forces engaged in fighting terrorist forces, funded by EU, and strong humanitarian and diplomatic support from rest of region and world," Hague explained.

He rejected the suggestion that the western decision to intervene in the Libya civil war which saw the overthrow of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi led to the growth of the Tuareg insurgency in neighbouring Mali, which has now been overtaken and dominated by Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

"We were involved in saving lives in Libya – Gaddafi was overthrown by his own people," Hague insisted.

"What we did shortened the Libya conflict – these problems would have been even greater. While the Libyan situation may have contributed in Mali, the action which the western world took in Libya has if anything mitigated that."

Cameron is expected to begin his statement at 15:30 GMT this afternoon.