Algeria siege: 37 foreigners died, PM says
- 21 January 2013
- From the section Africa
Algeria's Prime Minister has said 37 foreigners of eight nationalities and one Algerian worker were killed during the hostage crisis at a gas plant.
PM Abdelmalek Sellal said 29 of the militants who overran the facility near the desert town of In Amenas had been killed and three captured alive.
The Islamists included 11 Tunisians, two Canadians, and others, he said.
The four-day siege ended at the weekend when Algerian troops recaptured the site. Five hostages are still missing.
Japan on Monday said seven of its nationals had been killed and three others remained missing.
US officials confirmed that three Americans were among the dead, with seven survivors.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said thee Britons had been killed, with three others missing and presumed dead.
He said the hostage crisis highlighted the need for a "strong security response" matched by an "intelligent political response".
The foreigners killed or still missing also include workers from France, Norway, Malaysia, the Philippines and Romania.
Mr Sellal praised the decision by Algerian special forces to storm the site, adding that the aim of the kidnappers was to "blow up the gas plant".
"The terrorists also shot some of the hostages in the head, killing them," he stressed.
The prime minister said the kidnappers had crossed into the country from northern Mali, and that they were from Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Mali, Niger, Canada and Mauritania.
The militants said they had taken hostages in retaliation for French intervention against Islamists in Mali earlier this month.
However Mr Sellal said the attack on the gas plant had been planned for more than two months.
Algerian police say it was organised by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a militant leader who recently fell out with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which originated in Algeria but now operates throughout the Sahara and Sahel regions.
The crisis began on Wednesday when militants attacked two buses carrying foreign workers to the remote site in eastern Algeria. A Briton and an Algerian died in the incident.
The militants then took expatriates hostage at the complex, which was quickly surrounded by the Algerian army.
Algerian state media said later that 685 Algerian workers at the plant had escaped, with reports that militants told them they were only targeting non-Muslims.
- Bus attack: 05:00 local time 16 January: Heavily armed gunmen attack two buses carrying gas field workers towards In Amenas airfield. A Briton and an Algerian die in the fighting.
- Hostages taken: The militants drive to the installation at Tigantourine and take Algerian and foreign workers hostage in the living area and the main gas facility at the complex.
- Army surround complex: Security forces and the Algerian army surround the hostage-takers. Western leaders, including the UK's David Cameron, urge Algeria to consult them before taking action.
- Army attacks: 12:00 (13:00 GMT) 17 January: Algerian forces attack as militants try to move some of their captives from the facility. Reports say some hostages escape, but others are killed.
- Final assault: The Algerians ended the raid on 19 January, killing the last 11 captors after they had killed seven hostages, state media reported. At least 48 hostages and 32 militants in total are now believed to have died.