Algeria: Assault Ends Hostage Crisis
January 19, 2013
Algeria says its forces have stormed a natural gas complex in the Sahara desert, ending a four-day-old hostage crisis.
The government says 32 militants and 23 captives have been killed during the standoff, while 685 Algerian employees and 107 foreigners were released.
The military also recovered machine guns, rifles, missiles, rocket launchers, and grenades attached to suicide belts.
The Algerian state oil company Sonatrach said the army was now clearing mines planted by the militants.
The plant at In Amenas, in southern Algeria near the Libyan border, is jointly run by BP, Sonatrach, and Norway's Statoil.
A statement from the kidnappers said the assault on the facility, which began on January 16, was in retaliation for French intervention against Islamist groups in neighboring Mali.
French President Francois Hollande expressed support for Algeria's tough reaction to the hostage taking, saying its tactics were 'the most adapted response to the crisis.'
'There could be no negotiations' with terrorists, the French media quoted him as saying in the central French city of Tulle.
Hollande also said the hostages were 'shamefully murdered' by their captors. He said that if there still were any need for France to justify its intervention in Mali, the events in Algeria provided it.
U.S. President Barack Obama blamed the deaths of hostages killed in Algeria on the 'terrorists' who carried out the attack. He said January 19 that the attack was a reminder of Al-Qaeda's continued threat.
'In the coming days, we will remain in close touch with the government of Algeria to gain a fuller understanding of what took place so that we can work together to prevent tragedies like this,' he added in a statement.
In Ademas, residents say they remain shaken by the violence of the past four-days.
'This case does affect us, it is normal because it is a sensitive oil area, so it does affect, it is normal, people are here to work not to make trouble, this is a peaceful country, and if the terrorism stays here nothing of this area will be left, this is a sensitive area with oil and gas and a lot of people have been killed,' said one man. He did not want to be indentified for fear of reprisals from militants.
Another man, who also did not give his name, worried that foreign companies now might leave the area for fear of future terrorist attacks
'Now I think all the French companies want to leave and won't provide jobs, this is the problem,' he said. 'We were working and all was fine but now after this it is over, everything will stop, there will be a big labor crisis.'
The crisis has put the spotlight on al-Qaida-linked groups that roam the vast desert region, threatening vital infrastructure and energy interests.
The Algerian government said on January 19 that the militants came across the border from 'neighboring countries.'
The militants said they came from Niger, hundreds of kilometers to the south.
Based on reporting by AP, dpa, Reuters
Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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