Algerian Militants Kidnap Foreigners in Retaliation for Mali Intervention
January 16, 2013
by VOA News
Al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants in Algeria are holding as many as 41 foreign hostages who were working at a natural gas complex for what the militants call retaliation for the French military action in Mali.
A spokesman for the al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) told VOA seven Americans were among the hostages. Others are thought to include Britons, French, Japanese, and Norwegians.
Spokesman Oumar Ould Hamaha said Wednesday if America wants to help France in Mali, it will "face the consequences." He said the French declared "war" and Westerners would be harmed if the intervention continued.
"By all indications, this is a terrorist act, and the United States strongly condemns these kinds of terrorist acts. It is a very serious matter when Americans are taken hostage along with others," said U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. "The United States will take all necessary and proper steps that are required to deal with this situation."
Algerian Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia said his country would not negotiate with terrorists. The State Department says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been in touch with Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal.
The militants kidnapped the foreigners during an attack Wednesday on a natural gas field partly operated by the British energy company BP.
The attackers reportedly killed two people, including a British national, and wounded at least six others.
In a statement, the BP energy giant confirmed that its Ain Amenas gas facility was attacked and "occupied by a group of unidentified armed people."
BP operates the facility along with the Norwegian company Statoil and the Algerian state oil company. A Japanese company provides services.
French forces entered Mali last week to help drive back Islamist militants moving towards the capital. At least three al-Qaida-linked groups are among those who seized control of northern Mali last year.
Algeria had long warned against military intervention against the rebels in northern Mali, fearing the violence could spill over its own long and porous border.
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