UK

Algeria siege inquest: 'Bloodshed threat' before attack

The gas plant in In Amenas Image copyright HO
Image caption The gas plant is situated in the Sahara desert

A worker at a gas plant where British hostages were killed by Islamist militants allegedly threatened managers with "bloodshed" the night before the attack, an inquest has heard.

Six British workers were taken hostage and then killed at the In Amenas plant in Algeria in January 2013.

For months, there had been labour disputes at the plant, the court heard.

Deputy general manager Mark Cobb told the inquest no-one had told him of the alleged threat.

The apparent threat of violence was made during a dispute with local workers at the site, which is jointly run by BP, Norwegian state oil company Statoil and the Algerian government-owned Sonatrach.

Mr Cobb was asked at the inquest about the meeting - held the night before the attack - between managers and representatives of Algerian drivers, who had gone on strike.

'Extremely worried'

Bridget Dolan, counsel to the coroner, asked him about claims that a translator overheard one of the drivers' representatives say: "You have made your law but tomorrow when you wake up you will have a surprise and there will be bloodshed."

Mr Cobb replied: "No one translated that for me, nobody told me that comment had been made.

"If I had been made aware of that I would have been extremely worried."

Early the following morning a group of more than 30 terrorists armed with AK-47-style machine guns, sniper rifles and explosives took over the site and held employees hostage.

Forty workers and 29 militants were killed during the siege.

The inquest, being held at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, is examining the deaths of Stephen Green, 47, from Hampshire; Garry Barlow, 50, from Liverpool; Carson Bilsland, 46, from Perthshire; Sebastian John, 26, from Norfolk; Paul Morgan, 46, from Liverpool and Kenneth Whiteside, 59, from Fife.

Image copyright John Family
Image caption Sebastian John, 26, was a father of one
Image copyright PA
Image caption Paul Morgan was the first British victim of the attack to be named

It is also examining the death of Carlos Estrada, a Colombian who had moved to London.

The attack unfolded over four days, and the workers had explosives attached to them as they were held hostage.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Colombian Carlos Estrada was visiting In Amenas from London

On Monday, the court heard that Carson Bilsland, an inspection engineer, had written to his family complaining about security on the complex.

"The job is fine but security is not good and not safe compared to other places I've worked," the letter said.

But Mr Cobb denied this, and said the area where In Amenas is located was inside a "ring of steel" controlled by the Algerian military. He said the plant had its own dedicated group of around 160 armed gendarmes in charge of security.

Image copyright BP
Image caption Mr Cobb said the plant was surrounded by a "ring of steel"

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