'50 dead' in attack on Algeria Islamists
- Published: 17 Jan 2013 at 22.49
- Online news:
ALGIERS - 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.
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 neighbouring Mali.Algeria's APS news agency reported that 600 Algerian hostages had been freed in a rescue operation.It also said the Algerian army freed four hostages, including two Britons, a Frenchman and a KenyanA member of the "Signatories for Blood", a group which has claimed 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 said they have nationals at the site.The Nouakchott-based ANI often carries reliable reports from Al-Qaeda 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.The hostage drama dragged Algiers and several top Western powers into the Mali conflict, taking the spotlight off French and government troops battling the Islamists controlling the country's vast desert north.Veteran Islamist fighter Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian with ties to Al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for attacking the plant, jointly operated by British oil giant BP, Norway's Statoil and state-run Algerian energy firm Sonatrach."We demand the Algerian army pull out from the area to allow negotiations" to end the drama, Abu al-Baraa, had earlier told the Al-Jazeera news channel.He also said Algerian snipers had opened fire at the site where the hostages were held, injuring a Japanese national. Algeria has insisted it would not negotiate with the gunmen.Al-Baraa confirmed there were "around...
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