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Algeria's hostage crisis
« on: January 19, 2013, 02:09:25 PM »
Algeria's hostage crisis

A murky mess

Jan 18th 2013, 11:46 by M.R. | CAIRO

20130119_map501 - Algeria's hostage crisis - Africa

DETAILS of what happened at the remote but massive natural gas complex of In Amenas, in the Algerian Sahara, remain scanty. What is known is that an armed band of jihadist fighters, believed to be from a group that calls itself the Signed-in-Blood Battalion, emerged out of the desert to raid the heavily guarded facility, which is jointly operated by BP, Norway’s Statoil and the Algerian state hydrocarbons giant, Sonatrach. Taking dozens of workers hostage, the raiders claimed to be acting in response to France’s intervention in neighbouring Mali, where fellow jihadists had threatened an advance on the capital, Bamako.

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Re: Algeria's hostage crisis
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2013, 02:10:20 PM »
Several workers were killed and wounded in the initial attack, but hundreds escaped. A rescue attempt of the captives by Algerian ground troops, backed by helicopters, released more hostages but appears to have left an unknown number dead. Rebel sources claimed that 34 foreign workers had been killed; Algerian government spokesmen put the number at seven, with a dozen of their captors killed, too.


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Re: Algeria's hostage crisis
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2013, 02:11:10 PM »
Amid the confusion, some facts do stand out. This was, oddly enough considering that Algeria’s regime has fought a life-and-death struggle against Islamist extremists for two decades, the first-ever such attack on the energy infrastructure that keeps the country solvent. This suggests either a lapse in stringent security, or an emboldening of Islamist insurgents, whose reach has diminished markedly in the coastal regions where 90% of Algerians live. In Amenas lies only 35km from the Libyan border. The rebel group, which is known to profit from smuggling of Moroccan hashish and cigarettes (its one-eyed leader is sometimes called Mr Marlboro), may have found still-lawless Libya a useful refuge as well as a source of arms and cash.

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Re: Algeria's hostage crisis
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2013, 02:12:23 PM »
The bad news is that their ability to strike so boldly is likely to spook the Western oil operators who run facilities across the region. Governments are also likely to see this as a sign of the Sahel region’s jihadists, loosely linked under the umbrella of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), growing both stronger and better coordinated. The better news is that most of Algeria’s and Libya’s oil installations lie far from their mutual border, and their security will certainly now be taken more seriously. Importantly, too, In Amenas lies no less than 1,000km from the Malian border, and another thousand or so from the region where French forces are now engaged against jihadists. This renders practical coordination between isolated Islamist fighters rather difficult, to say the least. And lastly, just as the jihadists’ excessive boldness in Mali is what provoked French intervention, the hostage-taking in Algeria is likely to prompt tighter and more determined coordination between the region’s governments and outside powers.

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Re: Algeria's hostage crisis
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2013, 02:16:20 PM »
DFA sends team to help Filipinos in Algeria

by Rappler.com
01/19/2013


algeria-afp-1192013 - Algeria's hostage crisis - Africa
HOSTAGE. Satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe from October 8, 2012 shows Amenas, Algeria. Islamist militants held dozens of foreign hostages and hundreds of Algerian workers hostage in a gas field located approximately 45 km from the city. AFP Photo/Digitalglobe

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has sent a team from the Philippine embassy in Tripoli to Algeria to monitor the situation on the ground and assist Filipino workers who may need assistance there.

This was disclosed by DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez Saturday, January 19. Hernandez said thus far, 34 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) have already been evacuated from the gas field and have been brought to Spain for eventual repatriation to the Philippines.

Algerian armed forces launched an operation Friday which freed about 100 hostages, including foreigners, but left around 60 Westerners missing.

APS, the Algerian news agency, had said earlier that "more than half" of the foreign hostages, as well as 573 Algerians had been freed in the rescue operation.


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Re: Algeria's hostage crisis
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2013, 02:17:30 PM »
'Ongoing' and sensitive drama

A US official said the drama involving Western hostages at the remote Algerian gas field is still "ongoing and sensitive."

Earlier too, news reports said at least two Filipinos were killed in the hostage crisis at an Algerian gas plant, with captors demanding a prisoner swap and an end to French military action in Mali. An American hostage was also confirmed dead Saturday, even as the fate of other foreigners held hostage remained uncertain.

A report from The Times said that those killed in the Algeria hostage crisis included Filipinos. The report said "two Britons and two Filipinos were killed when Algerian troops stormed in."

When asked about this, the Palace could not confirm the information.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said, "We have been waiting for confirmation also from the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs). Medyo nahihirapan din po kasi ang DFA na kumuha ng kompirmasyon. The DFA has been getting information from our countrymen here na baka daw po nasama ‘yung kanilang mga kaanak doon sa mga na-hostage, wala pa ho tayo talagang verified information. We want to be very careful about it, given the sensitivity of the situation and the DFA is doing its best to get confirmation on this report."

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Re: Algeria's hostage crisis
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2013, 02:19:21 PM »
Filipino survivor

The Al-Qaeda-linked gunmen, cited by Mauritania's ANI news agency, said they still held 7 foreigners at the site deep in the Sahara desert near the border with Libya. An Algerian security official put their number at 10.

The DFA also earlier confirmed that an injured Filipino who escaped the hostage incident was headed to Algiers. The Filipino, who was not named, managed to escape with a Japanese from the gas field before the military operation started, according to Hernandez.

A GMA-7 news report however interviewed Filipino worker Jojo Balmaceda before he was flown to London. An employee of British oil giant BP, Balmaceda and 3 fellow Filipino workers were taken at gunpoint as they arrived for work, tied up and thrown into a truck, along with Japanese and Malaysian hostages, GMA said.

After the truck was hit by an explosion, Balmaceda escaped but sustained a gunshot wound to his head. "After that I ran away, fearing that the vehicle would explode. Then I lost consciousness and when I woke up I was already in hospital," Balmaceda was quoted as saying.

"I hope to get on a flight so I would be back home tomorrow," Balmaceda said. - Rappler.com/With reports from AFP

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