21 January 2013

Algeria: 70 die in Algeria hostage rescue

Photo: BP
Natural gas facility in Amenas, Algeria.

Officials say 48 hostages and 32 hostage-takers were killed, with many still unaccounted for.

Algerian officials at the weekend announced that 55 people died in last week's hostage incident at the In Amenas gas facility in the east of the country. According to the tally, 23 Algerian and foreign hostages died as well as 32 hostage-takers, the BBC reported. However, 25 more corpses of hostages were later found on Sunday evening.

However, Communications Minister, Mohammed Said warned in an interview with Algerian radio yesterday, January 20, 2013 that the final tally was likely to rise as nationals from the United Kingdom, US, Norway and Japan were among the missing after the siege was ended by an Algerian army raid on Saturday, January 19, 2013. Al Jazeera TV reported that Algerian Special Forces stormed the remote desert facility to end the hostage crisis that saw seven foreign hostages killed by their captors in the final moments as the military moved in. Mohammed Said added that the hostage-takers were from six countries - including Arab, African and non-African nations.

Two Malaysians were missing after the raid, as were five Norwegians. Three Britons were confirmed dead, and a further three were missing or feared dead. British Foreign Secretary, William Hague said yesterday that his government was working hard to locate the missing hostages. Japanese engineering firm, JGC Corp, said 10 Japanese and seven foreign workers remained unaccounted for. Algerian State news agency, APS, said 685 Algerian workers and 107 out of 132 foreigners working at the plant had been freed, citing Interior Ministry figures. The nationalities of some of the hostages killed were still not known.

The kidnappers, whose leader is Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a former al-Qaeda commander, first killed a Briton and an Algerian on a bus on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 before taking hundreds of workers hostage when they overran the gas plant. The attacked gas field is situated at Tigantourine, about 40 km south-west of In Amenas and 1,300 km south-east of the Algerian capital, Algiers. The kidnappers said the assault on the gas plant was in retaliation for French military intervention against Islamist groups in neighbouring Mali last week.

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