As it happened: Algeria hostage crisis

Key Points

  • Algerian forces have ended a four-day hostage crisis at a gas facility in the Sahara desert.
  • The interior ministry says 23 hostages and 32 captors have been killed. The identity of the hostages has not been revealed.
  • Five British nationals and one UK resident are dead or unaccounted for. Five Norwegians are also missing.
  • UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond says the hostage-takers "bear sole responsibility".
  • French President Francois Hollande defends the Algerian response as "the most suitable".
  • All times GMT.

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    Reports from Algeria suggest the hostage crisis at a remote gas facility in the Algerian desert has reached a conclusion, with Algerian special forces killing 11 kidnappers. State news agency APS says the army launched a final assault on the complex and seven hostages were summarily killed by their captors as the troops tried to free them.


    The army is currently clearing mines laid by the hostage-takers at the site, state-run energy firm Sonatrach tells the Reuters news agency.


    The nationalities of the dead hostages are not yet known, the report by APS said.


    Our map shows where the gas facility is located in Algeria and explains how the crisis initially unfolded on Wednesday morning when two buses carrying gas workers to In Amenas airport were attacked.

    Meridja in Algiers, Algeria

    emails: Algeria is a free country dealing with an old ghost we thought we got rid of a decade away, some people need to keep in mind that in this raid we lost Algerian soldiers as well as Algerian hostages too but it is the only way to deal with it! Dozens of Americans die quite often during hostages crisis or shootings in schools and random public spaces and yet the claim that the death of ONE American hostage is a catastrophe and that Algerian army need to explain themselves? That's just unacceptable.


    One Romanian national has been killed and another injured in the crisis, Romania's Prime Minister Victor Ponta has told the AFP news agency. The Romanian foreign ministry previously announced that three Romanians caught up in the crisis had been freed.


    UK Foreign Secretary William Hague gave an interview, shortly before news of the latest army raid emerged, in which he said the large majority of British nationals caught up in the situation were now "safe and accounted for" and there were fewer than 10 remaining "at risk". It has also been announced that the British ambassador, along with a small consular and political team, is to fly to In Amenas to provide consular support to all those Britons caught up in the crisis.

    Journalist David MacDougall in Norway

    tweets: Waiting for an #Algeria hostage update from #Norway PM @jensstoltenberg. He will speak to media at 1540gmt in #Bergen.


    Because of the facility's remote location, details of what has been happening during the four-day siege have been patchy and confused.

    Journalist Øyvind Bye Skille in Oslo, Norway

    tweets: Press meeting w/ Norwegian PM Stoltenberg 1540GMT cancelled He is visiting families of #Statoil employees #algeria

    No.10 Press Office

    tweets: PM spoke to Foreign Secretary after COBRA about the ongoing situation in #Algeria and will speak to Algerian PM later this afternoon

    Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri (Photo credited to ANI Mauritanian news agency)

    This is the leader of the hostage-takers, according to Mauritanian news agency ANI, which has been in touch with the militants. He is named as Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri, a veteran fighter from Niger.

    Scotchmist in Inverness

    emails: Pity about the outcome but entirely up to Algeria to deal with it as they saw fit. If it happened in the US or UK do you think the government would be dictated to by another country, even if they had some interest? Experts have said that it would have been very difficult for ANY special forces unit to achieve a better outcome due to the size of the gas plant and the numbers involved. The UK needs to show less arrogance and give more respect to other nations.


    It is unclear whether the operation at In Amenas has ended - some Algerian news sites suggest that it has, but French President Francois Hollande has said that it is "still underway", according to the Reuters news agency.


    Earlier on Saturday, France said there were no longer had any French hostages held at the plant. One French national, Yann Desjeux, is known to have died.


    Also on Saturday, Norway's Statoil said two more of its employees had been "brought to safety", but the fate of six others remained unclear.


    The British ambassador has arrived in the town of In Amenas to join a small consular team already there, the UK Foreign Office confirms.


    France is investigating whether a French national may be among the kidnappers, AFP news agency reports. Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told French media that he expected to find out soon whether a Frenchman with the surname Le Guen had been one of the hostage-takers. He said Le Guen had been in neighbouring Mali for the past several weeks.

    Algerian military helicopter flies over In Amenas on 19/1/13

    An Algerian military helicopter flies over In Amenas town, close to the scene of the siege.


    The Norwegian foreign ministry says it has received confirmation that the operation at In Amenas is now over, the AFP news agency reports.


    Britain's Defence Secretary Philip Hammond says the hostage siege in Algeria appears to have ended.


    Mr Hammond said the raid had resulted in a further loss of life, adding that "it is the terrorists that bear the sole responsibility for it".


    Speaking at a news conference with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Mr Hammond called the loss of life "appalling and unacceptable" and said he was "pressing the Algerians for details on the exact situation".


    The AFP news agency has clarified its earlier report on an "injured" Romanian hostage, now quoting Prime Minister Victor Ponta as saying the hostage has been "freed [and] is currently being taken care of by the Algerian army. We have no information about his condition."


    The Scottish government has said the safety of eight people identified as resident in Scotland has been established. However, it adds that it cannot confirm "names and final details on numbers of those hostages with a Scottish connection".


    Algeria has been losing $11m a day as a result of the shutdown at the In Amenas plant, state-run oil firm Sonatrach told Reuters. Fears have been expressed over the impact of the crisis on the hydrocarbons sector, key to the Algerian economy.


    UK Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond says there can be "no doubting" the Algerian government's "commitment to dealing with Islamist terrorism", adding that allies "don't always do things in the same way that we would".


    Responding to a question over whether the presumed leader of the attack, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, would be targeted, Mr Hammond said the kidnappers' leaders will be "held to account for their actions... The full force of the UK and US and other allied countries will bear down upon them."


    BP chief executive Bob Dudley says that 14 out of 18 BP staff at the site are safe, but that the fate of the four remaining workers is unknown, Reuters news agency reports. The Press Association quotes Mr Dudley as saying the firm has "grave fears" that they are likely to have suffered fatalities.


    Algerian army operations since Thursday have killed 29 militants, including four "emirs", or leaders, the Algerian El Watan news site reports. It names them as Abul Rahman al-Nigeri, Lamine Moucheneb, alias Taher, Abu Albaraa Al-Jazairi and Mauritanian Abdallahi Ould Hmeida. The original group of kidnappers is thought to have been around 30 strong and composed of different nationalities.


    Algerian TV channel TV3 has broadcast footage of weapons purportedly seized from kidnappers at the In Amenas gas plant, including Kalashnikov rifles, machine guns, a pile of ammunition and rocket propelled grenades, BBC Monitoring reports.


    A UK Foreign Office spokesman tells the BBC that Algerian authorities "have told us the military phase has come to an end but they are still seeking to make the site secure".

    Algerian Gendarmes escort a freed Norwegian hostage at a police station in Amenas January 19

    Algerian gendarmes have been escorting freed foreign hostages from the site in In Amenas - this picture shows a Norwegian national.


    French President Francois Hollande has defended Algeria's handling of the crisis as "the most appropriate" approach as "no negotiation was possible".


    "We don't have all the details, but when there's a hostage situation concerning so many people, with terrorists so coldly determined, ready to kill... A country like Algeria responds in a way which, to my eyes, is the most suitable," Mr Hollande said.

    Guido in Skikda, Algeria

    emails: The only people who has to be blamed for this disaster is the Algerian army! I worked on that site for three and a half years. That area is completely flat, and the Algerian army who has a base there is supposed protect and create a security area for the gas plant and living compound. How is it possible 30 terrorist enter this zone without being noticed?


    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he had received "severe information" about Japanese nationals taken hostage at a gas plant in Algeria, without elaborating further, the AFP news agency reports. Fourteen Japanese nationals had been reported missing by their employer.

    Journalist Øyvind Bye Skille in Oslo, Norway

    tweets: Norwegian PM @jensstoltenberg will not comment the recent reports from #InAmenas #Algeria - I have met the families and expressed my sympathy

    Paul Nice in France

    emails: I find it amazing that the Algerian gov is being blamed for BP/Statoil failure to know how many employees they have at the facility, their nationality and basic status. Off duty/on duty/abroad/vacation at the time of the crisis. All this 'don't know how many people' is a fuddle. Little talk of the hundreds who were released safely. We really must get over the 'our boys' attitude, the 'collateral damage' approach to humanity sits very uncomfortably with right thinking Brits. Please remember this would barely be reported if it were not for our guys at an energy plant. Thousands have to die elsewhere to be mentioned as an news item.


    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has said it is highly likely a Colombian national is among the victims of the Algeria hostage crisis, the BBC's Arturo Wallace reports.


    Mr Santos said all the evidence suggested BP employee Carlos Estrada was "among a group of people who were killed in a bus", citing information from British authorities. The British have not confirmed this.


    One of the men rescued from the plant, a Norwegian named only as Odvar, has told how he followed emergency procedure by staying in his room until the military arrived four days later. He told Reuters he woke up early on Wednesday hearing the emergency alarm and gun fighting.


    The attack began on Wednesday morning when militants ambushed two buses heading towards the In Amenas gas field before taking hostages in the complex's living quarters. Read more on how the crisis has unfolded here.


    Once again the picture coming our of Algeria is confused. For Western governments, it's been a day of confusion, anxiety and sense of powerlessness, says BBC world affairs correspondent Emily Buchanan. "The continuing lack of firm facts on fatalities will be very difficult for the families of the hostages," our correspondent adds.


    Mokhtar Belmokhtar - who is accused of ordering the attack on a gas facility in eastern Algeria in which foreign workers have been killed and taken hostage - is a one-eyed war veteran with the nickname "Mr Marlboro". See more about him here.


    Mokhtar Belmokhtar was close to Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), to give its full name in English. AQIM has its roots in the bitter Algerian civil war of the early 1990s, but has since evolved to take on a more international Islamist agenda.

    1902: Breaking News

    Algerian interior ministry preliminary figures indicate 23 captives and 32 kidnappers were killed in the hostage crisis.


    Pictures from inside the facility during the last four days are emerging. This still of video footage, taken on Wednesday or Thursday, shows hostages sitting against the wall while one of the captors guards them

    1907: Breaking News

    British Foreign Secretary William Hague says five Britons and one UK resident are either dead or unaccounted for.


    One of the operators of the site, Norway's Statoil, says it is still missing five of its workers, after one more employee was brought to safety. Chief Executive Helge Lund said the company was feeling "a deep and growing unease". "People we have spoken to describe unbelievable, horrible experiences," he said.


    More details from the Algerian state new agency, the Algeria Press Service. Citing an unnamed source, it says weapons recovered from the scheme include six machine guns, 21 rifles, two shotguns, two 60mm mortars with rockets, six missiles with launchers, two RPG7 with eight rockets and 10 grenades arranged in explosive belts.


    UK Prime Minister David Cameron says: "One British citizen has already been killed in this brutal attack and we now fear the worst for the lives of five others who are not yet accounted for."


    The Algerian government has downplayed reports that the hostage crisis had impacted the country's energy sector. Algeria has not reduced its gas exports following the attack, Energy and Mining Minister Youcef Yousfi told journalists in Algiers.


    UK Prime Minister David Cameron adds: "It is our priority now to get people home as quickly as possible and to look after the survivors."


    Mr Cameron says his government will continue to focus on fighting terrorism: "There is no justification for taking innocent life in this way. Our determination is stronger than ever to work with allies right around the world to root out and defeat this terrorist scourge and those who encourage it."


    Only three of the 32 hostage-takers were Algerian nationals, the Algerian interior ministry said in a statement. Driving several all-terrain vehicles, the militants are thought to have entered Algeria from border nations.


    One of the hostages, Filipino civil engineer Ruben Andrada, told the AP news agency the kidnappers used him and other captives as human shields during the army siege. The militants placed "an explosive cord" around the hostages' necks and threatened to detonate them if they tried to run away, he said.

    Video footage of hostages with their hands in the air at the In Amenas gas facility

    More footage is emerging from the hostage crisis. In this video still released by Ennahar TV, the captives are seen with their hands raised in the air in the desert near the In Amenas gas facility.


    UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has spoken to the BBC , confirming that five British nationals and one British resident are either "deceased or unaccounted for". He says it "too early to pass judgement" on Algeria's handling of the crisis.


    On Thursday, the militants loaded the hostages into SUVs in a convoy to move them from the housing complex to the refinery, a survivor told the AP news agency. "When we left the compound, there was shooting all around," Filipino civil engineer Ruben Andrada said, as Algerian helicopters attacked with guns and missiles. "I closed my eyes. We were going around in the desert. To me, I left it all to fate."


    Mr Andrada told the AP news agency his vehicle overturned, allowing him and a few other hostages to escape. He sustained cuts and bruises and was grazed by a bullet on his right elbow. He later saw the blasted remains of other vehicles, and the severed leg of one of the gunmen.

    UK Foreign Office

    tweets We're in touch with families concerned and working closely with #BP and police to give support at this very difficult time #Algeria


    BP group chief executive Bob Dudley said in a statement: "This was an unprovoked violent assault by heavily-armed murderers. We have not experienced an attack on any such facilities on this scale before. As a precautionary measure we are of course, reviewing security at our other locations and operations in the region and elsewhere around the world."


    The Algerian government said it was "too early" for an assessment of the damage sustained at the gas facility following the attack. Nevertheless "the initial findings by experts show that the damage is not huge because the equipment was cut down," Energy and Mining Minister Youcef Yousfi told the state-run APS news agency in Algiers.


    Mr Yousfi said: "There was no pressure, there was no explosion. The fire was caused by terrorists and it was [controlled] through the intervention of our technicians assisted by the security services and Algerian People's Army soldiers who managed to extinguish it."


    The restarting of production at the In Amenas gas facility "will depend on... the site mine clearance", Mr Yousfi added.


    Algeria's decision to deal with the kidnappers forcefully and without foreign help fits with a deeply-entrenched and uncompromising approach to counter-terrorism, writes the BBC's Aidan Lewis. Read more about how the Algerian response to the In Amenas hostage crisis is rooted in history.


    One of the freed hostages, Iba El Haza, told the AFP news agency the militants had spared his life because he was Algerian. "The terrorists said: 'You have nothing to do with this, you are Algerians and Muslims. We won't keep you, we only want the foreigners,'" Mr El Haza said.

    Algerian security forces near a bus carrying freed hostages in In Amenas

    More images are emerging from the aftermath of the hostage crisis. In this picture, Algerian security forces escort a bus carrying some of the freed hostages past a police station in In Amenas, near the gas facility where they were held captive.


    In total more than 700 people were kidnapped in the Amenas attack, according to the Algerian interior ministry. The hostage-taking is thought to be the largest since the 2008 Mumbai attack, during which dozens of foreigners were held captive at several hotels.


    We are now ending our live coverage of the aftermath of the Algerian hostage crisis at the In Amenas gas facility. Remember you can check back on the BBC News website for the latest information throughout the night.


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