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    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    Algeria siege: 'Victims' as army tries to free hostages

    Algeria siege: 'Victims' as army tries to free hostages

    Mokhtar Belmokhtar is said to be behind the gas plant kidnapping
    Continue reading the main story



    Algerian forces have moved against Islamic militants holding hostages at a gas facility in eastern Algeria, the state news agency reports.
    Four foreign hostages were freed but the operation resulted in a number of "victims", APS agency said.
    Algerian soldiers had been surrounding the facility near In Amenas that kidnappers occupied on Wednesday, after killing a Briton and an Algerian.
    Reports quoting militants said at least 34 hostages and 14 kidnappers died.
    Militants also told Mauritania's ANI news agency that seven foreign hostages were still alive after the Algerian military raid.
    Nearly 600 Algerian workers and four foreign hostages - two from Scotland, one from France and one from Kenya - were freed during the operation, APS reported.
    An Irishman who had been kidnapped was freed and has spoken to his family, Ireland's foreign ministry said.
    APS quoted an unnamed source as saying that "about half" the foreign hostages had been liberated.
    The Algerian military targeted two vehicles as they tried to escape from the site with an unknown number of people on board. Militants told local media that Algerian forces had opened fire from the air.
    Continue reading the main storyMokhtar Belmokhtar


    • Fought Soviet forces in Afghanistan in late 1980s
    • Former leading figure in al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb. Left in late 2012 after falling out with leaders
    • Now heads the Khaled Abu al-Abbas Brigade and the Signed-in-Blood Battalion
    • Known as "The One-Eyed" as he wears an eyepatch over a lost eye
    • French intelligence has dubbed him "The Uncatchable", while locals refer to him as "Mister Marlboro" for his illicit cigarettes operation




    It was not clear whether the Algerian military raid was ongoing.
    Japan asked Algeria to stop the operation and not to endanger the lives of the hostages.
    Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal called UK counterpart David Cameron to say the operation was under way at 11:30 GMT, Mr Cameron's spokesman said.
    Mr Cameron made clear that he would have preferred to have been informed in advance, but the Algerians said they had to act "immediately", the spokesman added.
    The White House said it was "seeking clarity" on the operation.
    Militants had earlier said they were holding 41 foreign nationals. They were believed to include British, Japanese, US and Norwegian citizens.
    Some 30 Algerians and 15 foreigners were reported to have escaped from the gas facility before the Algerian military intervened.
    Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia said the kidnappers were Algerian and operating under orders from Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a senior commander of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) until late last year.
    Mr Ould Kablia said the kidnappers had not entered Algeria from a neighbouring country.
    One statement purported to be from the hostage-takers called for an end to the French military intervention against Islamist rebels in neighbouring Mali.


    The BBC's Frank Gardner: We have to treat these reports with a lot of caution

    Algeria allowed France to use its airspace during its operation against Islamist militants who took control of northern Mali. The French operation began on Friday.
    The Tigantourine gas facility is about 40km (25 miles) south-west of In Amenas, which is close to the Libyan border and about 1,300km (800 miles) south-east of Algiers.
    BP operates the gas field jointly with Algerian state oil company Sonatrach and Norwegian firm Statoil.
    "We have been informed by the UK and Algerian governments that the Algerian army is attempting to take control of the In Amenas site," BP said in a statement.
    "Sadly, there have been some reports of casualties but we are still lacking any confirmed or reliable information."

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21063370

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    Obama, Clinton Silent on Hostage Crisis

    9:51 AM, JAN 17, 2013 • BY DANIEL HALPER

    At least two American hostages (and possibly several more) are being held hostage at a gas plant in Algeria, but there's been no word on unfolding the situation from either President Barack Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    In fact, the only official word to come from the Obama administration is confirmation from the State Department that indeed Americans are being held hostage there.

    "[W]e 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," said State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland in response to a reporter's question yesterday.

    "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."

    Nuland did say that Clinton is aware of the situation and taking action. "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," said Nuland.

    Yet the White House has been silent. And President Obama has not indicated he has plans to address the public on exactly what is happening. Same for Clinton, who has yet to make a public statement on the situation.

    The State Department, however, indicated it was increasing security at the embassy in Algeria. "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," she said at yesterday's press briefing.
    For more on the story, Reuters reports:

    Six foreign hostages and eight of their captors were killed when Algerian forces fired on a vehicle being used by besieged gunmen at a gas plant in the remote Algerian desert on Thursday, a local source told Reuters.

    Mauritania's ANI news agency, which has been in constant contact with the kidnappers, said seven hostages were still being held: two Americans, three Belgians, one Japanese and one British citizen.

    The standoff, which began when gunmen stormed the gas plant on Wednesday morning demanding a halt to a French military operation in neighboring Mali, has unfolded into one of the biggest international hostage crises in decades.

    Obama, Clinton Silent on Hostage Crisis | The Weekly Standard

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