News / Africa

Algerian PM: 37 Foreign Workers Killed in Gas Complex Siege

An Algerian soldier keeps watch at a checkpoint near theTiguentourine gas plant, where Islamist militants took foreigners hostage, January 19, 2013.
An Algerian soldier keeps watch at a checkpoint near theTiguentourine gas plant, where Islamist militants took foreigners hostage, January 19, 2013.
VOA News
Algeria's prime minister said 37 foreign workers were killed during the hostage crisis at a remote desert gas complex, with five others still missing.

Algeria's Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal holds a news conference in Algiers, January 21, 2013.Algeria's Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal holds a news conference in Algiers, January 21, 2013.
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Algeria's Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal holds a news conference in Algiers, January 21, 2013.
Algeria's Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal holds a news conference in Algiers, January 21, 2013.
In a news conference Monday, Abdelmalek Sellal offered Algeria's first detailed account of events at the In Amenas natural gas plant, where Islamist militants took dozens of hostages last Wednesday.

He said one Algerian was killed during the crisis, and that Algerian security forces killed 29 militants and captured three others during the operation to free the hostages. Sellal said at least one Canadian was among the militants.

The crisis began last Wednesday when Islamist militants intercepted a bus carrying some foreign workers to an airport near the gas compound. The Algerian prime minister said the attackers' initial goal was to hijack the bus and take the foreigners to neighboring Mali, to use as leverage in negotiations with foreign countries.

Sellal said Algerian guards fired on the bus, prompting the heavily-armed militants two split into two groups -- one that stormed the residential part of the complex and another that raided the industrial section and planted explosives around it.

More than 700 workers were caught up in the attack, among them 134 foreigners.  Most escaped as security forces staged an initial rescue attempt on Thursday.

  • Residents of Ain Amenas, Algeria, gather outside the hospital trying to get information concerning relatives wounded during the terrorist attack at the gas plant, January 18, 2013.
  • An unidentified former hostage speaks to the media in a hospital in Ain Amenas, Algeria, in this image taken from television, January 18, 2013. (Canal Algerie)
  • An unidentified former hostage receives treatment in a hospital in Ain Amenas, Algeria, in this image taken from television, January 18, 2013. (Canal Algerie)
  • Unidentified former hostages pose for the media in Ain Amenas, Algeria, in this image taken from television , January 18, 2013. (Canal Algerie)
  • Algerian special police unit officers secure the hospital in Ain Amenas, Algeria, January 18, 2013, two days after the start of the terrorist attack at a gas plant.

The Algerian prime minister said the militants threatened to kill all of the foreigners they had taken hostage and began detonating some explosives late Friday, forcing the government to order the final assault. He praised the Algerian troops for carrying out what he called a "difficult" and "successful" operation.

Sellal said the foreign workers killed represented eight nationalities.   

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confirmed that seven Japanese workers for engineering company JGC Corp. were killed, while three others were missing. Officials said six Filipinos also were killed, with another four missing.   Other victims included one American, one French citizen, one Romanian and three British workers.

Islamist militant leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar claimed responsibility for the attack in the name of al-Qaida. In an Internet statement Sunday, he said 40 militants from Muslim and Western nations carried out the raid.  

Belmokhtar said the raid was in response to French military operations against other al-Qaida-linked militants in neighboring Mali.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday that responsibility for the killings "lies squarely" with what he called the "terrorists who launched this vicious and cowardly attack." French President Francois Hollande welcomed what he described as Algeria's "most appropriate" response to "coldly determined terrorists."

The foreign hostages included Americans, Austrians, Belgians, Britons, Colombians, French, Japanese, Malaysians, Norwegians and Romanians. The complex is jointly run by Algerian, British and Norwegian firms.

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