Algeria: Death Toll from Hostage Crisis May Rise
by VOA News January 20, 2013
Algeria says the death toll from the hostage crisis at a natural gas complex could rise. The government said Sunday several countries have indicated some of their citizens remain missing after an end to the bloody conflict at the complex in eastern Algeria.
On Saturday, Algeria's Interior Ministry said the nation's hostage crisis had ended with 23 hostages and 32 militants killed.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday that three British nationals are confirmed dead, and another three are believed to have been killed. U.S. officials previously said at least one American is known to have died.
Algeria's Interior Ministry said security forces managed to free 107 foreign hostages and 685 Algerians.
Algeria's official APS news agency said the country's special forces stormed the complex Saturday in their 'final assault' on Islamists who had been holding scores of hostages in the desert facility. However, few details have emerged from the remote location where the rescue mission took place.
France endorsed Algeria's handling of the situation Saturday, saying it was the 'most appropriate' response since it was not possible to negotiate with the 'coldly determined terrorists.'
In Washington, President Barack Obama condemned the actions of the kidnappers, saying they were entirely to blame.
British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond also said the terrorists bear the 'sole responsibility' for the deaths.
Several Americans were among those being held. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in London after meeting with Hammond that he had only 'sketchy information' about the American hostages and would not comment until he had better details. He also renounced terrorist attacks on Americans across the globe.
'Just as we cannot accept terrorism attacks against our cities, we cannot accept attacks against our citizens and our interests abroad. Neither can we accept an al-Qaida safe haven anywhere in the world,' he said.
Foreign hostages at the gas complex are believed to have included nationals from the U.S., Britain, Japan, Norway, Romania, the Philippines, France, Malaysia and Austria. The complex is jointly run by Algerian, British and Norwegian firms. Japanese officials say several of their nationals are missing.
The U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning Americans in Algeria, saying there are credible threats of the kidnapping of Western nationals.
The militants say they attacked the facility Wednesday in retaliation for French military operations in Mali.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.
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