Algeria surrounds militant-held plant; Panetta condemns the raid
ALGIERS — As Algerian army helicopters clattered overhead deep in the Sahara desert, Islamist militants hunkered down for the night in a natural gas complex they had stormed Wednesday morning, killing two people and taking dozens of foreigners hostage in what could be the first spillover from France's intervention in Mali.
The Algerian army has surrounded the complex and about 1,000 miles from the coast, there is no obvious way for the kidnappers to escape in their four wheel drive vehicles with their hostages.
A militant group claimed responsibility for the rare attack on one of oil-rich Algeria's energy facilities, saying it came in revenge for the North African nation's support for France's military operation against al-Qaida-linked rebels in neighboring Mali. The militants said they were holding 41 foreigners from the energy complex, including seven Americans.
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, located 800 miles south of Algiers, the Algerian capital, and that France must cease its intervention in Mali to ensure the safety of the hostages.
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 for the facility as well.
In Rome, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared that the United States “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 a “terrorist attack” and likened it to al-Qaida activities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
Algeria's 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 complex's 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.
“We reject all negotiations with the group, which is holding some 20 hostages from several nationalities,” Kabila said on national television, raising the specter of a possible armed assault to try to free the hostages.
The head of a catering company working on the base told the French Journal de Dimanche that helicopters were flying over the complex and the army waited outside. There were even reports of clashes between the two sides and a member of the militant group told the Mauritanian news outlet they had repelled one assault by Algerian soldiers late Wednesday.
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.
- Saudi aerial offensive pummels Yemen capital
- U.S. senator in Cuba says normal relations ‘weeks away’
- Blair to quit post as U.N. special Middle East envoy
- 4 Taliban attackers killed in Kabul siege
- Iran to try Washington Post reporter in closed court on spying charges
- Japan to participate in joint exercise with U.S., Australia
- Americans with taste for mojitos flock to Havana
- Popular tourist spot attacked in Afghanistan
- Terrorists capture Palmyra; Syrians fear destruction of antiquities
- Conservative populist Duda becomes Poland’s president
- Army commando team kills senior Islamic State official in Syria raid