Algerian officials state, “Contact with the site is extremely difficult, but we understand that armed individuals are still occupying the In Amenas operations site.”
Islamist militants linked to al-Qaeda have taken an unknown number of hostages at an Algerian gas facility. BBC reports that two foreign nationals were killed and possibly 41 others have been take hostage after the militants attacked the gas facility. An alleged spokesman for the militants told Mauritanian news websites that the foreigners being held include American, British, French, and Japanese citizens. The gas field, In Amenas is operated by the state-owned corporation Sonatrach, which is partnered with the British oil company BP and the Norwegian oil company Statoil.
This attack is thought to be in response to France’s military intervention in Mali. French forces have been combating Islamist militants linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Algeria has opened up its airspace to French aircraft. A man claiming to be a spokesman for the militants told BBC Arabic that al-Qaeda was responsible for the attack. He also claimed the group has “allowed Algerian workers to leave the gas facility,” and that they will only be holding the foreign nationals hostage. A list of demands has been sent to the authorities, and he warned that they will kill the hostages if troops attempt a rescue. He said,
Storming the gas complex would be easy for the Algerian military, but the outcome of such an operation would be disastrous.
The Algerian military has reportedly launched an operation to rescue the hostages and surrounded the gas workers’ camp at Tiguentourine.