Witnesses recall great confusion
Even after sprinting 200 meters to safety through a broken fence at the natural-gas facility seized by terrorists, an Algerian engineer who gave his name to “Le Soir d'Algerie” newspaper as A. Tahar underwent several searches and identity checks before security forces allowed him to join a group of 400 who had already escaped or been rescued.
The precautions of the Algerian forces underscored the confusion at the 100-acre In Amenas plant for four days after it was attacked by terrorists. While 23 hostages died and others lived through terrifying moments, others were able to hide or were left free to wander through the sprawling facility.
“Abductors were wearing a military uniform and masks” one of the Algerian hostages who was freed said in a video interview broadcasted on al Arabiya. “Foreign hostages were being forced to wear suicide belts.”
The standoff in Algeria's southeastern desert came to an end yesterday when Algerian special forces stormed the final 11 militants who had holed up with seven hostages in a corner of the plant. All were killed.
In total, 685 Algerian workers and 107 foreigners were rescued or escaped, Algeria's Ministry of Interior said yesterday in a statement carried on the state-run APS news service. All 32 terrorists were killed, it said.
One foreign hostage, Alexandre Berceaux, a catering worker from France, stayed hidden in his room for 40 hours, fed and protected by Algerian co-workers. “I was under the bed and put planks all over the place just in case,” he told Europe1 radio.
Berceaux was rescued by the Algerian army.
Another Frenchman wasn't so lucky. Yann Desjeux, who also worked in catering, was killed in undetermined circumstances, the French Foreign Ministry said. President Francois Hollande said yesterday that he called his family to offer his condolences. Algerian newspaper El Watan said he was a former French commando who worked for a security company.
The United States took custody of the remains of an American, Frederick Buttaccio of Katy, Texas, who was found dead at the complex, said a U.S. official who wasn't authorized to speak on the record. Buttaccio's death was confirmed Jan. 18 by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, who said in a statement that “out of respect for the family's privacy, we have no further comment.”
Of the 23 hostages in total who died, six probably were Britons, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday. Five were probably Norwegian employees of Statoil ASA, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday at a briefing in Oslo.
The Algerian government began its rescue operation at the plant operated by Statoil, London-based BP Plc and Algeria's Sonatrach on Jan. 17 without coordinating with foreign governments, which had urged caution to safeguard the lives of the hostages, according to U.S. and other officials who weren't authorized to be identified.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Mylan CEO Bresch sets sights on growth
- UPMC buying New Castle-based Jameson Health System
- Pa. considers $300,000 plan to clean polluted site in Kennedy
- U.S. Steel to restructure Canadian subsidiary, halt 2 U.S. expansion projects
- 2 top executives at Dick’s Sporting Goods to retire
- Tobacco growers forced to find profits as buyout checks end in October
- Casing cracks, not fracking, blamed for gas in water wells
- EPA extends comment period on power plant proposal
- Envelopes in Marriott hotels invite tips for maids
- Congress: Safety agency mishandled GM recall
- UPS expects to hire up to 95K seasonal workers