16 January 2013

Mali: U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing: Mali & Algeria

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Excerpt from the United States Department of State daily press briefing:

QUESTION: Before we get back to Syria, as I'm sure you will, can you just address, if you can, these reports about Americans being among the foreigners held hostage in Algeria?

MS. NULAND: Well, let me start by saying that we condemn in strongest terms the terrorist attack on British Petroleum personnel and facilities at In Amenas, Algeria earlier today. We are obviously closely monitoring the situation. We're in contact with Algerian authorities and our diplomatic counterparts in Algiers, as well as with BP's security office in London.

The best information that we have at this time is that U.S. citizens are among the hostages. I hope you will understand that in order to protect their safety, I'm not going to get into numbers, I'm not going to get into names, I'm not going to get into any further details as we continue to work on this issue with the Algerian authorities and also with their employers.

Let me also say that the Secretary has spoken to our Ambassador in Algiers, Ambassador Ensher today. And as I was coming down here, she was on the phone with Algerian Prime Minister Sellal.

QUESTION: I appreciate you don't want to get into many details, but other governments don't seem to have a problem confirming the number of their citizens that they believe to be there, so I'm just curious as to why that would pose - or do they not care about their citizens as much as the U.S. does?

MS. NULAND: We will leave it to other governments to handle their citizens as they see fit. Beyond confirming that there are Americans among the hostages, I will ask you to respect our decision not to get into any further details as we try to secure these people.

Please, Margaret.

QUESTION: What do you understand about the motivations behind the hostage taking? Some of the militants have said that this is in retaliation for the French efforts in Mali, and the U.S. has been supportive of that effort. Are they linked?

MS. NULAND: I wouldn't presume to get inside the heads of the kind of people who would do this.

QUESTION: So there has been no request made to the U.S.? I mean, the hostages aren't asking things of the U.S. Government at this time? Or the hostage takers, excuse me.

MS. NULAND: I'm not going to get into any further details on our efforts with regard to this than I already have.

Please.

QUESTION: Victoria, are you enhancing security measures around the Embassy in Algiers?

MS. NULAND: Well, as we always do in these circumstances, our Embassy has issued an emergency message to U.S. citizens, encouraging them to review their personal security. We're obviously taking the appropriate measures at the Embassy as well.

QUESTION: You mean a Warden Message, or is this something different?

MS. NULAND: It's an emergency message that goes out in the context of a specific incident.

All right. Moving on.

...

QUESTION: I just need to clarify two things on the Algeria - this is stuff that you already said.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: You said that the Secretary was speaking to, as you came down, the prime minister or the foreign minister?

MS. NULAND: The prime minister.

QUESTION: Okay - of Algeria.

MS. NULAND: Mr. Sellal.

QUESTION: Right. Okay. And then when you said that you understand that U.S. citizens are among the hostages, that understanding comes from your conversations with the Algerians and the BP security office? Is that correct?

MS. NULAND: I didn't actually connect those dots there.

QUESTION: Well, they were right - one right after the other --

MS. NULAND: I understand.

QUESTION: -- so that's why I want to know.

MS. NULAND: I understand. What I said was that our information is that Americans are among the hostages.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. NULAND: And then I went on to say that we are in contact with Algerian authorities, with our diplomatic counterparts in Algiers, as well as with BP's security office.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, actually, I think that you said you were in contact with Algeria and BP before you said we understand, but I might be wrong. But anyway, I just want clarify, can you say how it is that you understand that Americans are among the hostages?

MS. NULAND: I'm not going to get into any further detail here.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:43 p.m.)

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