Hostage crisis over in Algeria gas plant
Algerian soldiers secure the airport in In Amenas before the departure of freed hostages amid global outcry.Algerian de-mining teams were scouring a gas refinery yesterday that was the scene of a bloody four-day standoff, searching for explosive traps left by the Islamist militants who took dozens of foreigners hostage.
De-mining teams began going through the complex late Jan. 19 and yesterday, searching for explosive traps left behind by the militants, the state news service said, citing security officials that it did not name. Sonatrach, the Algerian state oil company running the Ain Amenas site along with BP and Norway’s Statoil, said the entire refinery had been mined.
Citing security sources, Anis Rahmani, director of the private television channel Ennahar, told Agence France-Presse the army discovered “the bodies of 25 hostages” as they sought to secure the sprawling site.
Militants from six nations
Algerian Special Forces stormed the natural gas complex in the Sahara desert on Jan. 19 to end the standoff, and the government said all 32 militants were killed. The chief government spokesman, Mohamed Said, said yesterday the final toll of hostages killed would be known within hours, but that he “strongly feared it would rise.” He said the militants came from six countries and were armed to cause maximum destruction. “They had decided to succeed in the operation as planned, to blow up the gas complex and kill all the hostages,” Said said.
Immediately after the assault, French President Francois Hollande gave his backing to Algeria’s tough tactics, saying they were “the most adapted response to the crisis.” “There could be no negotiations” with terrorists, the French media quoted him as saying. Hollande said the hostages were “shamefully murdered” by their captors, and he linked the event to France’s military operation against al-Qaeda-backed rebels in neighboring Mali.
The siege at Ain Amenas transfixed the world after radical Islamists linked to al-Qaeda stormed the complex on Jan. 16, which contained hundreds of plant workers from all over the world, then held them hostage surrounded by the Algerian military. In the final assault, the remaining band of militants killed seven hostages before 11 of them were in turn cut down by the Special Forces, Algeria’s state news agency said.