London, Jan. 21 : British Prime Minister David Cameron has warned that the country is facing a battle against Islamic extremism in North Africa and the Sahara that could last for decades.
He said that countering the rise of al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in the Sahel region will require an `iron resolve' and greater military, diplomatic and economic engagement with the region.
He spoke as it was confirmed that six British citizens had died after extremists took scores of hostages at a gas plant in eastern Algeria, the Telegraph reports.
France on Sunday night called the hostage-taking `an act of war'.
According to the report, speaking at Chequers on Sunday, Cameron acknowledged that the terrorist threat in North Africa had grown and he predicted a prolonged struggle to meet it.
William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, signalled that could mean directing more of Britain's growing aid budget to countries in the region.
He said that there is `no all-military solution' to the problem.
Western intelligence agencies have warned for several years that al-Qaeda-inspired groups are spreading in Africa as it becomes harder for extremists to operate in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.
However, British diplomatic and intelligence coverage of many countries in the Sahel region has traditionally been limited, since France, the former colonial power, has taken the lead, the report added. (ANI)