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Islamists In Algeria Kill Two, Take Western Hostages In Raid Linked To Mali War

EL WATAN (Algeria), LE MONDE,AFP ( France)


Two people were killed and as many as 41 Westerners were taken hostage in an attack Wednesday by an Islamist group at a gas treatment facility in Algeria.

A British citizen and an Algerian are believed to be dead and six other people wounded in the assault early Wednesday morning at a plant jointly run by by the Algerian state oil company Sonatrach, Norway's Statoil and British Petroleum, AFP reports.

Local media reports say the raid in Tigantourine, 1600 kilometers southeast of the capital of Algiers, is a response to France's recent launching of air and ground assault in neighboring Mali to oust Islamic rebels who control the northern part of that country.

Algerian daily El Watan reports that the raid took place at 5 a.m. local time, with the heavily armed attackers arriving in three vehicles and targeting a bus transporting foreign workers at the gas treatment facility. Among the foreign nationals reported to be held hostage are Americans, British, Japanese and Norwegians.

Speaking on national television Wednesday night, Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia said authorities would not negotiate with the captors, El Watan reported. Kablia said authorities put the current number of Western hostages "around 20."

The group taking responsibility has links to the well-known terrorist outfit Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which is allied with the Islamist rebels that have taken over vast swaths of territory in northern Mali. Last Friday, France launched a major military operation to oust the Islamist rebels.

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Tea Be Damned! Inside The Massive Starbucks Bet On China's Shift To Coffee

A gigantic and multi-faceted new location near Shanghai epitomizes the American giant's ambition to quench China's growing but still-nascent thirst for coffee.

Photo of a Starbucks coffee shop in China

Starbucks coffee in Yangshuo, China

Frédéric Schaeffer

Updated Dec. 7, 2023 at 4:05 p.m.

SHANGHAI — The town of Kunshan, an hour's drive from Shanghai, is the launchpad of Starbucks's latest Chinese offensive. In mid-September, the American giant inaugurated an 80,000 square meter site that includes a roasting plant, an integrated distribution centre, and an immersive experience centre.

Grandly named as the "China Coffee Innovation Park", this $220 million project is the Seattle-headquartered company's biggest investment outside the United States. And the Kunshan model of vertical integration, from bean to cup, has no equivalent anywhere else in the world for the Starbucks group.

The site is a symbol of Starbucks’s hefty ambitions in China – it plans to open a location in the country every nine hours between now and 2025. The aim is to have more than 9,000 shops in 300 Chinese cities by then, compared with 6,500 today. "The 9,000 stores are just a milestone", said Laxman Narasimhan, the company's new boss, who rushed to China at the end of May in the wake of his appointment.

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Is the competition getting tougher? Has the end of the China’s "Zero-COVID" policy failed to deliver on its promise of an economic rebound? Is Washington pushing its multinationals to reduce their dependence on China?

Starbucks doesn't care. In the land of tea-drinkers, coffee is enjoying a meteoric rise, becoming a trendy drink for a young, urban middle class sensitive to Western influences.

The China focus comes amid news this week that McDonalds is launching a new kind of cafe-restaurant: CosMc's, which could be a direct competitor worldwide to Starbucks, serving customizable drinks like "s'mores and cold brew", "churro frappes", and "tumeric latte."

Some 10,000 CosMc locations are planned for opening over the next four years, with Starbucks expanding to 55,000 stores worldwide by 2030.

All of this speaks to coffee fever globally, which really began in China just a decade ago, and now registering double-digit growth rates that have manufacturers salivating.

"We expect China to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest market we have in the world," Narasimhan predicts.

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