Algeria hostage crisis over
By Mouna Sadek for Magharebia in Algiers – 20/01/13
Algerian troops on Saturday (January 19th) stormed the In Amenas gas complex to end a hostage crisis, killing the last 11 captors, AFP reported.
"This intervention resulted in the release of 685 Algerian employees and 107 foreigners," APS quoted the interior ministry as saying on Saturday.
Thirty-two terrorists were killed in the four-day rescue operation, according to the ministry.
The bodies of 25 hostages seized by terrorists were found on Sunday inside the remote gas plant, AFP reported.
"This attack is another reminder of the threat posed by al-Qaeda and other violent extremist groups in North Africa," US President Barack Obama said on Saturday.
The terrorists were from six different countries, including "nationals of Arab and African countries and of non-African countries", according to Algerian Communications Minister Mohamed Said.
The operation led to the recovery of "foreign military uniforms and a cache of ammunition and explosives", the interior ministry stated.
Algerian Special Forces also confiscated "six FMPK machine guns, 21 PMAK rifles, two shotguns, two 60mm mortars with rockets, six C5 60mm missiles with launchers, two RPG7s with eight rockets and 10 grenades used to create explosive belts", according to the ministry.
While world leaders deplored loss of life in one of the worst hostage crises in years, they agreed that responsibility for the carnage rested with the terrorists.
"These terrorists who attacked this gas plant are killers who pillage, rape, plunder and kill. The situation was unbearable," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Sunday.
British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond commented that the Algerian forces were "clear from the outset that this is something they're going to manage themselves".
"There can be no doubting their commitment to dealing with Islamists," he said.
At the end of the military operation, terrorists resorted to desperate measures and set fire to a part of the complex. Algerian troops intervened to prevent the fire from spreading.
"After Algerian military forces intervened at the Tiguentourine gas plant and dislodged the terrorists, it was found that the plant had been mined in order to blow it up," oil giant Sonatrach said in a statement.
The four-day assault is part of Algeria's counter-terror strategy that includes the principle of non-negotiation with terrorists. Commenting on the hostage crisis, French President Francois Hollande reiterated that "there could be no negotiations" with terrorists.
The operation "must be perceived as a firm and uncompromised response of the Algerian state to all the terrorist groups that rage in the Sahel region", El Watan editorialised on Saturday.
The attack on the Tiguentourine gas complex near In Amenas in Illizi wilaya began on Wednesday morning. Former al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) emir Mokhtar Belmokhtar (also known as Laaouar) reportedly orchestrated the assault on the Sonatrach-BP-Statoil facility.
Laaouar's El Moulethemine Brigade ("The Masked Brigade") claimed credit for the attack. The group also referred to itself as the "Singed-In Blood Brigade", with the operation named for Mauritanian terrorist Teyeb Ould Sidi Ali (aka Abderrehim al-Mauritani). Ould Sidi Ali died in a 2011 car crash in Mali.
The incident was the first of its kind targeting an Algerian oil or gas plant. The facility has a production capacity of more than 25 million cubic metres a day for export. The complex is located roughly 100km from the Libyan border.
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