UpdateHostages killed in operation to retake Algerian gas field

17 January 2013 20:13  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--An undisclosed number of hostages have been killed in an ongoing military operation at an eastern Algerian gas field that was attacked on Wednesday by militants, according to a government spokesman speaking on Thursday.

According to news agency Reuters, Algerian communication minister Mohamed Said was quoted by state news agency APS that many militants had been killed during the military operation to retake the In Amenas gas field and free the hostages and that the operation was ongoing.

Said said troops acted after talks with the militants failed and that there had been several deaths and injuries among the hostages, according to Reuters.

A total of 41 foreigners had been held captive, including American, British, French and Japanese citizens, news agency CNN said, citing reports from the Mauritanian News Agency and Sahara Media that quoted an Islamist group claiming responsibility for the attack.

Other reports mentioned that other European nationals were also among the hostages.

The gas field, which is about 800 miles (1,287km) from Algiers and nearly 40 miles west of the Libyan border, is operated by a joint venture between Algeria’s national oil firm Sonatrach, UK’s BP and Norway’s Statoil.

In a news conference on Thursday, Statoil CEO Helge Lund said the company is evacuating 40 non-essential staff from its Algerian installations after 12 of its employees working at the field had been taken hostage. Three of the 12, all Algerian nationals, were now safe, but the fate of the other nine was unknown, he said. Five other employees, all Norwegians, were on their way home, he said. 

In a separate statement on Thursday, BP said it had been informed by the UK and Algerian governments that the Algerian army was attempting to take control of the In Amenas site but that information on the situation remained unclear.

The statement said staged plans were under way to bring a group of non-essential BP workers out of Algeria and that the company was working with the UK and Algerian governments to get confirmed information about the situation.

“Sadly, there have been some reports of casualties, but we are still lacking any confirmed or reliable information,” the statement said.  

By: Jeremy Pafford
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