Algeria has fallen victim (as predicted) to Islamic militants who, on Wednesday, initiated attacks and took control of a natural gas field operated by BP Plc (NYSE:BP) (LON:BP).
The extremists attacked in the early hours of the day, killed two people and took several hostages. Among them were British Nationals and supposed U.S. Citizens. Thef group, which claimed responsibility for the attack, made it clear that the onslaught was a revenge mission, designed to punish Algeria for supporting France’s attack against Al-Qaeda linked Malian rebel groups.
Although Algerian forces surrounded the area, it is still too early to determine exactly how the situation will be resolved. The Algerian government has released limited information about the attack.
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According to the statement, three vehicles with heavily armed men ambushed a bus that was carrying employees from the gas plant to a nearby airport. The statement went on to describe that the ambush on the vehicle was not successful, which led to the hostage situation.
“After their failed attempt, the terrorist group headed to the complex’s living quarters and took a number of workers with foreign nationalities hostage,” said government said in the statement.
Oil heavyweight BP also gave a statement, noting that the attackers were armed and that some of its personnel were believed to be held by the militants.
Uncertainty in number of hostages and their nationalities
A man called Mokhtar bel Mokhtar identified himself as the leader of the Jihadist group. Mokhtar spoke to Aljazeera Television Network through a phone interview, and said the hostages included British and American Citizens. Although his claim has not yet been independently verified, Mokhtar pegged the number of hostages at 6.
The British Foreign Office confirmed that British nationals were caught up in the incident. Ireland also confirmed that a 36 year-old married citizen was involved. Japan also confirmed that some of its Nationals were involved. However, The U.S Embassy in Algiers said that it wasn’t aware of any U.S casualties.
Another group called Katibat Moulathamine called a Mauritian news outlet and said that one of its subsidiaries was responsible for the attack. Unlike Mokhtar bel Mokhtar who placed the number of hostages at 6, Katibat Moulathamine said the group had taken 41 different hostages from nine or 10 different countries.
So far, it is undetermined as to who is actually responsible for the attack on the installation.
The move by France President, Hollande, to launch an airstrike on Al-Qaeda linked terrorists in Northern Mali seems to have sparked these retaliatory attacks. Nevertheless, it is believed that hard-lined Al-Qaeda militants have already made significant inroads into the Algerian desert wastelands bordering Mali.
The desert wastelands are poorly patrolled and have since become a hotspot for a smuggling and kidnapping network that its though to span all through to Northern Mali and parts of Niger.