WHITE HOUSE — The United States has condemned the terrorist attack on an Algerian gas facility by an al-Qaida-linked group, and its seizing of foreign hostages, including Americans. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the attack demonstrates the challenge in confronting extremist groups.
Secretary Clinton addressed the deadly situation in Algeria during a media appearance with the visiting Somali president.
The White House earlier condemned the attack on the Algerian gas facility by an apparent al-Qaida affiliate, which said it was retaliating for Algerian cooperation with French military operations in Mali.
Secretary of State Clinton said, "This incident will be resolved, we hope with a minimum loss of life, but when you deal with these relentless terrorists, life is not in any way precious to them. But when this incident is finally over we know we face a continuing, ongoing problem."
Referring to the situation in Mali, Clinton said the U.S. will do everything it can to work with partners in North Africa to confront and disrupt al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
In Mali, she said this includes support for French troops, and help for African troops being sent in, including pre-deployment training and sustainment packages.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Algerian officials, including Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal who Secretary Clinton spoke with, agreed to keep all channels of communication open.
At the White House, Press Secretary Jay Carney said President Obama is being regularly updated by his national security team.
Carney declined to say whether the U.S. offered assistance to Algeria in a reported rescue mission, or whether the Algerian government consulted with the United States beforehand.
He addressed reports about potential loss of life.
"Unfortunately the best information we have at this time, as I said, indicates that U.S. citizens are among the hostages but we don't have at this point more details to provide to you. We are certainly concerned about reports of loss of life and are seeking clarity from the government of Algeria," he said.
An unknown number of the hostages are reported to have been killed. Carney said the U.S. has not been able to confirm or rebut reports about links between the terrorist group in Algeria and al-Qaida, but said finding out who is responsible is a priority.
He said the U.S. and allies are vigorous in ongoing efforts against al-Qaida affiliates, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Calling them a multi-headed beast, he said they pose threats to U.S. interests in the region.
John Campbell, senior fellow for Africa policy studies, Council on Foreign Relations, says counter-terrorism challenge now requires unified efforts against fragmented groups that may be linked to al-Qaida.
"Basic to the administration's strategy has been 'African solutions to African problems.' And what that has meant is developing the capacity of African nations to protect themselves against criminal and terrorist networks," he said.
In her remarks Thursday, Secretary Clinton called counter-terrorism efforts in the region difficult but essential work, involving remote locations.
Standing next to Somalia's new president, she said the U.S. will remain committed to the ongoing work of countering violent extremism, just as it was to trying to stabilize the situation in Somalia.