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    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    US confirms Americans taken hostage by al Qaeda-linked group in Algeria

    US confirms Americans taken hostage by al Qaeda-linked group in Algeria


    • From ASSOCIATED PRESS
    • Last Updated: 2:36 PM, January 16, 2013
    • Posted: 11:59 AM, January 16, 2013

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is condemning an Islamist attack on a natural gas field in southern Algeria and confirming that Americans are among those being held hostage.

    Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters in Italy that Americans were among the hostages and called the incident a "terrorist attack."

    A militant group that claimed responsibility says it's holding seven Americans, but State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said she wouldn't provide details to protect those who were kidnapped.

    Militants said they attacked and occupied the field partly operated by the energy company BP because of Algeria's support of France's operation against al-Qaida-linked Malian rebels groups to the southeast.

    Nuland said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke Tuesday by telephone with Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal.
    US authorities also were in contact with BP.

    In what could be the first spillover from France's intervention in Mali, Islamist militants attacked and occupied a natural gas complex partly operated by energy company BP in southern Algeria on Wednesday. Two foreigners were killed and possibly dozens of others, including Americans, were taken hostage.

    A militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in revenge for Algeria's support of France's operation against al-Qaida-linked Malian rebels groups far to the southeast. It said it was holding 41 foreigners, including seven Americans.

    Algerian forces have surrounded the complex and the state news agency reported a bit more than 20 people we're being held, including Americans, Britons, Norwegians, French and Japanese, citing the local authorities.
    "Algeria will not respond to terrorist demands and rejects all negotiations," announced Algeria's top security official, Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia on television.

    In a statement, BP said the site was "attacked and occupied by a group of unidentified armed people," and some of its personnel are believed to be "held by the occupiers."

    The number and identities of the hostages were still unclear, but Ireland announced that a 36-year-old married Irish man was among them, while Japan and Britain said their citizens were involved as well. A Norwegian woman said her husband called her saying he had been taken hostage.

    In addition to those killed — one of them a Briton — six were wounded in the attack, including two foreigners, two police officers and two security agents, the state news agency reported.

    Hundreds of Algerians work at the plant and were taken in the attack, but the state news agency reported that they have gradually been released in small groups, unharmed by the late afternoon.

    A group called the Katibat Moulathamine, or the Masked Brigade, called a Mauritanian news outlet to say one of its affiliates had carried out the operation on the Ain Amenas gas field, taking 41 hostages from nine or 10 different nationalities, including the seven Americans.

    The group's claim could not be independently substantiated and the US embassy said it wasn't "aware of any US citizen casualties."

    The caller to the Nouakchott Information Agency, which often carries announcements from extremist groups, did not give any further details, except to say that the kidnapping was carried out by "Those Who Signed in Blood," a group created to attack the countries participating in the offensive against Islamist groups in Mali.

    The Masked Brigade was formed by al-Qaida's longtime strongman in the Sahara region, Moktar Belmoktar, a one-eyed Algerian who recently declared he was leaving the terror network's Algerian branch, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb for his own group.

    He said at the time he would still maintain ties with the central organization based out of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    French President Francois Hollande launched the surprise operation in its former West African colony on Friday, with hopes of stopping al-Qaida-linked and other Islamist extremists he believes pose a danger to the world.

    Wednesday's attack began with the ambush of a bus carrying employees from the gas plant to the nearby airport but the attackers were driven off, according to the Algerian government, which said three vehicles of heavily armed men were involved.

    "After their failed attempt, the terrorist group headed to the complex's living quarters and took a number of workers with foreign nationalities hostage," said the statement.

    Attacks on oil-rich Algeria's hydrocarbon facilities are very rare, despite decades of fighting an Islamist insurgency, mostly in the north of the country.

    In the last several years, however, al-Qaida's influence in the poorly patrolled desert wastes of southern Algeria and northern Mali and Niger has grown and it operates smuggling and kidnapping networks throughout the area. Militant groups that seized control of northern Mali already hold seven French hostages as well as four Algerian diplomats.

    The natural gas field where the attack occurred, however, is more than 600 miles from the Mali border, though it is just 60 miles from Libya's deserts.

    BP, together with Norwegian company Statoil and the Algerian state oil company, Sonatrach, operate the gas field. A Japanese company, JGC Corp, provides services for the facility as well.

    Prime Minister David Cameron's office said "several British nationals" are involved in the "ongoing incident," without giving an exact number.

    Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the kidnapped foreigners possibly include Japanese employees of JGC.

    "We are certain that JGC is the one affected," Suga said, adding that the government is now negotiating with local officials through diplomatic channels, asking to protect the lives of the Japanese nationals.

    Japanese news agencies, citing unnamed government officials have said there are three Japanese hostages.

    Statoil spokesman Lars Christian Bacher said the company had 13 Norwegian employees and a Canadian on the site and two of them have suffered minor injuries, but he would not comment about the situation of the others.

    The Norwegian Newspaper Bergens Tidende, however, said a 55-year-old Norwegian working on the site called his wife to say he had been abducted.
    Algeria had long warned against military intervention against the rebels in northern Mali, fearing the violence could spill over its own long and porous border. Though its position softened slightly after Hollande visited Algiers in December, Algerian authorities remain skeptical about the operation and worried about its consequences on the region.

    Algeria is Africa's biggest country, and has been an ally of the US and France in fighting terrorism for years. But its relationship with France has been fraught with lingering resentment over colonialism and the bloody war for independence that left Algeria a free country 50 years ago.

    Algeria's strong security forces have struggled for years against Islamist extremists, and have in recent years managed to nearly snuff out violence by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb around its home base in northern Algeria. In the meantime, AQIM moved its focus southward.

    AQIM has made tens of millions of dollars off kidnapping in the region, abducting Algerian businessmen or political figures, and sometimes foreigners, for ransom.

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/international/algerian_report_linked_group_holding_xipLU5SGp8N4t vYlpRLJLP
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    Algeria hostages reportedly escape captors; some may have been slain

    Islamic militants have told a Mauritanian news outlet that that 35 hostages were killed but seven are still alive after Algerian military helicopters strafed a gas complex deep in the Sahara in Algeria. (Jan. 17)

    By Jeffrey FleishmanThis post has been updated. See the note below for details.January 17, 2013, 5:53 a.m.


    CAIRO -- The Algerian news agency reported Thursday that as many as 45 hostages, including Americans, had escaped from a natural gas complex a day after Islamic militants seized the installation in retaliation for French airstrikes against Islamist rebels in neighboring Mali. The Algerian report said 30 Algerians and 15 foreigners had fled the compound Thursday. The report could not be independently confirmed. The Associated Press, quoting an unnamed Algerian official, said 20 foreigners, including Americans, had escaped.

    [Updated, 6:02 a.m. Jan. 17: Conflicting reports suggested that hostages and kidnappers may have been killed by Algerian soldiers when they attempted to leave the complex. Media reports said a Mauritanian news organization quoted a militant spokesman as saying gunfire from helicopters killed 35 foreigners and 15 kidnappers, including the group's leader.



    If either scenario if true -- no details are yet known -– it would mark a stunning twist in a drama that has raised fears of a long siege and highlighted the dangerous Islamist extremism stretching from Mali across the mountains and lawless deserts of North Africa.]

    The militants had reportedly threatened to blow up the gas facility at In Amenas near the Libyan border if government commandos attempted to free the hostages.

    France 24 television reported that a male captive said in a telephone interview that attackers forced some hostages to strap on belts laden with explosives. It could not be confirmed if the man was a hostage.

    Hundreds of Algerian soldiers ringed the Sahara Desert compound and helicopters skimmed above. Algerian officials had earlier said they would not negotiate with the militants, who reportedly had asked for safe passage into Libya.

    Captives being held are believed to be from the U.S., France, Japan, Norway and other countries. Reports on Wednesday suggested that as many as 41 foreigners were being held by an Al Qaeda-linked group calling itself the Signed-in-Blood Battalion.

    The ordeal has shown the volatility of a region bristling with gunrunners, smugglers and a visceral strain of Islamic ideology. Militant groups, including Algeria's Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), have been deadly at home but now present a widening danger in North Africa, including in Tunisia and Libya, where Islamic extremists have gained a foothold since the uprisings of the Arab Spring.

    The natural gas complex at In Amenas, which supplies Europe and Turkey, is a joint venture operated by BP; Statoil, a Norwegian firm; and Sonatrach, the Algerian national oil company

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-20-foreign-hostages-escape-islamist-captors-in-algeria-20130117,0,7004240.story
    NO AMNESTY

    DON'T REWARD THE CRIMINAL ACTIONS OF MILLIONS OF ILLEGAL ALIENS

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