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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Algerian Hostages Reported To Have Escaped

Paige Brettingen |
January 17, 2013 | 9:40 a.m. PST

Executive Producer


Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is confident the U.S. will assist with the crisis (Creative Commons)
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is confident the U.S. will assist with the crisis (Creative Commons)

Conflicting reports by the Algerian News agency and other local sources have said that as many as 45 people– including some Americans– escaped from a remote natural gas facility in Algeria on Thursday after being held hostage, according to The L.A. Times. Media reports have also suggested that helicopter gunfire killed 35 foreigners and 15 kidnappers, including the leader, said the Times

If either scenario if true -- no details are yet known -– it would mark a stunning twist in a drama that has raised fears of a long siege and highlighted the dangerous Islamist extremism stretching from Mali across the mountains and lawless deserts of North Africa.

In another report, a local Algerian source told Reuters that "six foreign hostages were killed along with eight captors when the Algerian military fired on a vehicle being used by the gunmen. An Algerian security source said the 25 foreign hostages had escaped."

Reuters reported:


  • Mauritania's ANI news agency, which has been in constant contact with the kidnappers, said seven hostages were still being held: two Americans, three Belgians, one Japanese and one British citizen.
  • The standoff began when gunmen calling themselves the Battalion of Blood stormed the gas plant on Wednesday morning. They said they were holding 41 foreigners and demanded a halt to a French military operation against fellow al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants in neighbouring Mali.
  • ANI and Qatar-based Al Jazeera reported that 34 of the captives and 15 of their captors had been killed when government forces fired from helicopters at a vehicle. Those death tolls, far higher than confirmed by the local source, would contradict the reports that large numbers of foreigners escaped alive.


SEE ALSO: Islamic Militants Take Hostages In Algeria, Some U.S. Citizens

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta confirmed there were Americans among the hostages but that he was confident that the United States would provide assistance with the crisis, USA Today reported.

According to The BBC, the militants wanted to leave the country with the hostages, but the Algerian Interior Minister Daho Kablia had refused the request.


  • "We reject all negotiations with the group," he told reporters late on Wednesday.
  • An Algerian security official told Associated Press the Algerian government was discussing with the US and France whether an international force could help end the stand-off.


Kablia told The BBC that the kidnappers "were Algerian and operating under orders from Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a senior commander of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) before late last year, when he set up his own armed group after apparently falling out with other leaders."


  • Mr Kablia said a heavily armed "terrorist group" had attacked a bus carrying workers from In Amenas at about 05:00 (04:00 GMT) on Wednesday.


The natural gas plant, located about 25 miles southwest of In Amenas of Algeria, which is close to the Libyan border and supplies Europe and Turkey, is operated by BP, Statoil– a Norwegian firm– and Sonatrach– the Algerian national oil company.

BP released a statement on Wednesday, according to earlier reports by Neon Tommy, stating that the Amenas gas field had been “attacked and occupied by a group of unidentified armed people at about 0500 U.K. time. Contact with the site is extremely difficult, but we understand that armed individuals are still occupying the In Amenas operations site…We do not have confirmed information on the identity or intention of the people occupying the site.”


Find more Neon Tommy coverage on the Algerian crisis situation here.

Reach Executive Producer Paige Brettingen here. Follow her here.



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