BREAKING NEWS: Algerian army has killed 11 hostage-takers in final assault on Sahara gas plant, seven hostages killed – state news agency.
A sad end to an horrific assault by terrorists in the Sahara desert. All militants (32) died and preliminary number of hostages (23) are confirmed dead.
Many foreign nationals are still unaccounted for.
Algeria, Morocco, and other Maghreb states affected by the insurgency have been assisted in fighting Islamist militants by the United States
and the United Kingdom since 2007, when Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara began.
[Update from my earlier diary and comments]
As the first freed foreign hostages return to home soil, their witness accounts reveal the immense difficult circumstance of their ordeal. There are now just 7 foreign hostages left in the hands of the criminal gang: 3 Belgian, 2 Americans, 1 Brit and 1 Japanese. One cannot play a waiting game with thugs holding hostages and putting explosives in place. Profile of militant leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar. The moment a number of SUVs with hostages left the compound, the Algerian Army attacked which most likely was a turning point in the hostage taking and saved many lives. See the first video reports.
(Sky News) – Algerian special forces are continuing to hunt Islamist militants who overran a BP gas plant, as freed British hostages headed home. As the stand-off at the remote desert facility entered a fourth day it was thought that around 10 British workers remained “at risk” [Latest report indicates just one Brit as hostage – Oui].
The Algerian state news agency APS reported on Friday night a “provisional” figure of 12 foreign and Algerian workers who had been killed in the fighting at the plant at In Amenas. Among them are one Briton, one Frenchman – named by France’s Foreign Ministry as Yann Desjeux – and one American, Frederick Buttaccio.
The news agency said about 100 foreign workers had been released from a total of 132 seized by the militants – along with 573 local employees.
(France24) – The standoff between the Algerian army and al Qaeda-linked gunmen – one of the biggest international hostage crises in decades – entered its fourth day, having thrust Saharan militancy to the top of the global agenda. The number and fate of victims has yet to be confirmed, with the Algerian government keeping officials from Western countries far from the site where their countrymen were in peril.
Reports put the number of hostages killed at between 12 to 30, with possibly dozens of foreigners still unaccounted for – among them Norwegians, Japanese, Britons, Americans and others. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed on Friday the death of one American, Frederick Buttaccio, in the hostage situation, but gave no further details.
A U.S. official said on Friday that a U.S. Medevac flight carrying wounded of multiple nationalities had left Algeria.
By nightfall on Friday, the Algerian military was holding the vast residential barracks at the In Amenas gas processing plant, while gunmen were holed up in the industrial plant itself with an undisclosed number of hostages.
Scores of Westerners and hundreds of Algerian workers were inside the heavily fortified compound when it was seized before dawn on Wednesday by Islamist fighters who said they wanted a halt to a French military operation in neighbouring Mali.
Hundreds escaped on Thursday when the army launched an operation, but many hostages were killed in the assault. Algerian forces destroyed four trucks holding hostages, according to the family of a Northern Irish engineer who escaped from a fifth truck and survived.