Militants Seize 41 Hostages in Algeria; Two People Are Slain; Seven Americans Are Reportedly among Foreigners Captured at Natural Gas Complex
Aomar Ouali; Paul Schemm, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
ALGIERS, ALGERIA In what could be the first spillover from Frances intervention in Mali, Islamist militants attacked and occupied a natural gas complex in southern Algeria on Wednesday. Two people were killed, and dozens of others, including several Americans, were reportedly taken hostage.
A militant group claimed responsibility for the rare attack on one of oil-rich Algerias energy facilities, saying it came in revenge for the North African nations support for Frances military operation against al-Qaida-linked rebels in neighboring Mali. The militants said they were holding 41 foreigners, including seven Americans, from the energy complex.
The group called Katibat Moulathamine or the Masked Brigade phoned a Mauritanian news outlet to say one of its affiliates had carried out the operation at the Ain Amenas gas field, situated 800 miles south of Algiers, the Algerian capital.
BP, together with the Norwegian company Statoil and the Algerian state oil company Sonatrach, operates the gas field. A Japanese company, JGC Corp, provides services as well.
In Rome, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared that the U.S. will take all necessary and proper steps to deal with the attack in Algeria. He would not detail what such steps might be but condemned the action as terrorist attack and likened it to al-Qaida activities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
Algerias top security official, Interior Minister Daho Ould Kabila, said that security forces have surrounded the area and cornered the terrorists, who are in one wing of the complexs living quarters.
He said one Briton and one Algerian were killed in the attack, while a Norwegian and two other Britons were among the six wounded.
It was not immediately possible to rectify the discrepancies in the number of reported hostages. Their identities were also unclear, but Ireland announced that they included a 36-year-old married Irish man; and Japan, Britain and the U.S. said their citizens were involved as well. …