Algerian hostage crisis ends in violence

January 23rd, 2013

The fatal hostage situation taking place in a small town in southeast Algeria came to an end on Saturday after four days of turmoil. The town of In Amenas, Algeria, located near the border of Libya, is home to a gas installation owned by BP and Algerian and Norwegian oil companies. This natural gas facility employs over 600 people; close to 100 of them over foreigners.

The casualties were reported by the Algerian interior ministry and totaled 37 dead, including three Americans. Hostages held in the ordeal were from a variety of countries, including the United States and Great Britain. The only American casualty to date, Fred Buttaccio of Houston, Tex. was confirmed dead, and ABC News reports that the fate of two other Americans still remains uncertain.

The four-day situation ended on Saturday when Algerian military forces staged an intervention that was aggressive and ill-advised from nations who had hostages at the facility. NPR reported that the U.S., Britain and other countries support the response of Algeria, although they did not originally agree with their decision to act and not negotiate. Algerian officials adamantly opposed negotiating with the terrorists.

BBC U.K. reported that the terrorists, led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, belonged to a new Islamist group comprised of men that represent more than six nationalities. Belmokhtar is said to be closely involved with al-Qaeda. The infamous one-eyed terrorist, who was injured training in Iraq while in his 20s, led the group of Islamist militants into the gas field on Wednesday. NPR spoke with an Algerian who worked at the facility and said that he overheard men talking about how they were not planning on harming the Algerian workers; they were trying to kill the Westerners in order to teach Americans a lesson.

According to a report from CNN, the Islamist militants were heavily armed and most likely had intentions of blowing up the facility. They carried dangerous assault weapons and wore ‘suicide belts’ loaded with bombs.

The exact reasons for the attack still remain unclear and may remain that way for some time. This attack could be retaliation for the recent French attack in Mali or possibly just another in the line of jihadist attacks in North Africa. David Cameron, U.K. prime minister, said, “This is a global threat and will require global response.” He warned others that threat of terrorism is still very real, and does not seem to be letting up anytime soon.

Information from the BBC, CNN, NPR and ABC News was used in this report.