Death toll in Algeria tops 80
ALGIERS — The death toll from the terrorist siege at a natural gas plant in the Sahara Desert climbed past 80 on Sunday as Algerian forces searching the refinery for explosives found dozens more bodies, many so badly disfigured that it was unclear whether they were hostages or militants, a security official said.
Algerian special forces stormed the plant on Saturday to end the four-day siege, moving in to thwart what government officials said was a plot by the Islamic extremists to blow up the complex and kill all their captives with mines sown throughout the site.
In a statement, the Masked Brigade, the group claiming to have masterminded the takeover, warned of more such attacks against any country backing France's military intervention in neighboring Mali, where the French are trying to stop an advance by Islamic extremists.
“We stress to our Muslim brothers the necessity to stay away from all the Western companies and complexes for their own safety, and especially the French ones,” the statement said.
Algeria said after the assault on Saturday by government forces that at least 32 extremists and 23 hostages were killed. On Sunday, Algerian bomb squads sent in to blow up or defuse the explosives found 25 more bodies, the security official said.
“These bodies are difficult to identify. They could be the bodies of foreign hostages or Algerians or terrorists,” the official said.
In addition, a wounded Romanian who had been evacuated died, raising the overall death toll to at least 81.
“Now, of course, people will ask questions about the Algerian response to these events, but I would just say that the responsibility for these deaths lies squarely with the terrorists who launched a vicious and cowardly attack,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said. Three Britons were killed, and three are feared dead.
The dead hostages are known to include at least one American, as well as Filipino and French workers. Nearly two dozen foreigners by some estimates were unaccounted for.
It was unclear whether anyone was rescued in the final assault on the complex, which is run by the Algerian state oil company along with BP and Norway's Statoil.
Authorities said the bloody takeover was carried out on Wednesday by 32 men from six countries, under the command from afar of the one-eyed Algerian bandit Moktar Belmoktar, founder of the Masked Brigade, based in Mali. The attacking force called itself “Those Who Sign in Blood.”
The Masked Brigade said on Sunday that the attack was payback against Algeria for allowing over-flights of French aircraft headed to Mali and for closing its long border with Mali. In an earlier communication, the group claimed to have carried out the attack in the name of al-Qaida.
Armed with heavy machine guns, rocket launchers, missiles and grenades, the militants singled out foreign workers at the plant, killing some of them on the spot and attaching explosive belts to others.
Algeria's tough and uncompromising response to the crisis was typical of its take-no-prisoners approach in confronting terrorists. Algerian military forces, backed by attack helicopters, conducted two assaults on the plant, the first one on Thursday.
The militants had “decided to succeed in the operation as planned, to blow up the gas complex and kill all the hostages,” Algerian Communications Minister Mohamed Said told state radio.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said the terrorists had tried to blow up the plant on Saturday but managed to start only a small fire.
“That's when they started to execute hostages, and the special forces intervened,” Eide said.
Norway's Statoil said five Norwegians are still missing.
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.
- Neanderthals, humans may have mingled, study finds
- Ukrainian troops regaining control
- Social media being used to help catch British terrorist who killed Foley
- Landslide in Japan leaves dozens dead
- N. Korea aims for Kerry’s jaw as string of insults continues
- 111-year-old from Japan recognized as oldest man
- Iraqi terrorists are Islam’s enemy, Saudi cleric warns
- Israel, Gaza militants trade fire after talks fail
- Liberian slum sealed off as Ebola deaths mount
- Egypt: Israel, Hamas to extend temporary truce
- Billions in equipment scrapped as war winds down in Afghanistan