Al Qaeda Hostage Situation in Algeria – Westerners should prepare for Bad News
The Algerian government has reportedly mounted a military operation to rescue dozens of hostages, including Americans, being held by an al Qaeda-affiliated group at a natural gas plant in Algeria, and Britain’s prime minister warns that Westerners should prepare for the possibility of bad news.
Reports that as many as 35 hostages and 15 Islamist militants at the facility in In Amenas have been killed during a helicopter raid have not been confirmed, though Algeria’s information minister has confirmed that there were casualties. According to an unconfirmed report by an African news outlet, the militants say seven hostages survived the attack, including two Americans, one Briton, three Belgians and a Japanese national.
Algeria Says ‘Several’ Killed in Hostage Crisis
Earlier, a news agency in Mauritania quoted a militant spokesman as saying 34 hostages and 15 kidnappers were killed at the site. The report said Algerian helicopters attacked as the militants tried to move the hostages. But that report has not been independently confirmed.
Algeria’s news agency, citing local sources, reported the military had freed four foreigners — a Kenyan, a French national and two from the United Kingdom.
Militants took an undetermined number of captives at the facility on Wednesday, including foreigners, in what they called retaliation for French military action in neighboring Mali.
Several Americans are believed to be among the hostages. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday the U.S. is closely monitoring the situation.
“We are seeking clarity from the Algerian government about this matter and obviously we are focused most intently on the status of Americans,” he said.