ALGERIA—On Saturday January 19, a four-day standoff between militants occupying an Algerian Natural Gas Complex came to a deadly close when Algerian Special Forces, aided by air support from the Algerian Air Force, stormed the complex. Thirty-seven hostages and 11 Algerian workers are confirmed dead, alongside 29 militants.The crisis began when armed militants driving pick-up trucks assulted a natural Gas Complex in Amenas, Nigeria. The militants then proceeded to gather up Western workers at the complex and detained them together in a group, booby-trapped the complex with explosive devices, and demanded the release of prisoners being held by Algerian authorities.
The natural gas plant in Eastern Algeria is run by the state oil company and cooperates with foreign firms such as British oil giant, Beyond Petroleum (BP) and Norway’s Statoil. The complex employed 790 people including 134 foreign workers.
According to statements released by Algerian Prime Minister Abdul Malek Sallal, the militants were planning on blowing up the installation and retreating to neighboring Mali with Hostages. The resulting explosion would have devastated anything within a five kilometer radius, according to Sallal.
In reports released from APS, the state-run Algerian news service, the attack involved militants from eight counties; Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Mali, Niger, Canada, and Mauritania. Prime Minister Sallal has stated that the team of terrorists entered the country from Northern Mali, where France has been engaged in military operations against Islamist militants.
An Al-Qaeda commander, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, claimed responsibility in the name of Al-Qaeda for the mass-hostage taking calling it a “blessed operation,” according to the statement video released to Sahara Media, “We are ready to negotiate with the West and the Algerian government provided they stop their bombing of Mali Muslims.”
“We had around 40 jihadists, most of them from Muslim countries and some even from the West,” said Belmokhtar in the video statement.
In a statement released by the French Defense ministry, there are no French hostages unaccounted for, however, a man identified as Yann Desjeux died. Ten Japanese workers remain unaccounted for, and one Colombian hostage is presumed dead according to Colombia’s President.
Three workers from Malaysia are in route home, while one is presumed dead and a fifth is unaccounted for. Five Norwegian workers remain unaccounted for and another eight are confirmed safe.
Six workers from the Philippines are confirmed deceased and another four are missing, sixteen are confirmed alive and accounted for. Four Romanian Hostages were freed and one is deceased.
Three British citizens were killed in the crisis; three other British nationals and a U.K. resident are also believed to have lost their lives. Another 22 have returned safely home.
Seven U.S. citizens survived the crisis, and three are confirmed dead. Their names are Victor Lynn Lovelady, Gordon Lee Rowan, and Frederick Buttaccio.