Algeria strikes hostage site, 49 killed: Islamists
By Beatrice Khadige ,AFPALGIERS, Algeria -- Algerian troops Thursday launched strikes on a gas complex where Islamists are holding dozens of foreigners, killing nearly 50 people, most of them hostages, the kidnappers said.
January 18, 2013, 12:23 am TWN
Britain, France and Norway, all of which have nationals among the hostages, confirmed an operation was underway at the remote site attacked on Wednesday in retaliation for a week-old military assault in neighboring Mali.
Algerian media reported that 15 foreigners and 30 Algerian hostages had escaped the complex but authorities could not confirm this.
A member of the “Signatories for Blood,” a group which has claimed responsibility for the brazen hostage-taking at the In Amenas gas field near the Libyan border, said Thursday that Algerian troops had attacked the site.
“Thirty-four hostages and 15 kidnappers were killed in an (air) raid by the Algerian army,” the spokesman told Mauritanian news agency ANI, adding that among the dead was the chief hostage taker Abu al-Baraa.
His group had claimed to be holding 41 foreigners, including French, British and American citizens along with dozens of Algerian staff. Several countries have also said they have nationals at the site.
The Nouakchott-based ANI often carries reliable reports from al-Qaida-linked groups.
A British Foreign Office spokesman told AFP that the “Algerian authorities have confirmed that there is an ongoing operation” but there was no official word from Algiers.