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Hostages, Militants Reported Dead In Algerian Assault

Filed by KOSU News in World News.
January 19, 2013

Algerian special forces stormed a gas installation where militants were holding several hostages on Saturday, according to Algeria’s state media. The reports claim 11 militants and seven hostages were killed during what is being described as a final assault to end the four-day standoff.

The Algerian Press Service quotes a “security source” saying the hostages were killed by the militants, but did not give the nationalities of the dead. As throughout this crisis, there is still much unknown about what’s been happening on the ground there. The AP is reporting:

“There was no official count of how many hostages were still being held by the final group of militants holed up in the gas refinery on Saturday, but the militants themselves had reported they were still holding three Belgian, two Americans, a Japanese and a Briton.”

Whether those were the seven hostages killed is unclear. There are reports of hostages freed, too. Al Jazeera says a “source close to the crisis” said 16 foreign hostages, including two Americans, two Germans and one Portuguese were freed.

One American worker has been confirmed dead, as we reported on Friday; the U.S. State Department identified the man as Frederick Buttaccio from Texas, but didn’t give further details.

This crisis began on Wednesday, when Islamist militants seized dozens of hostages, including foreigners, at the In Amenas gas field near the country’s border with Libya. Hundreds of workers reportedly escaped when Algeria’s military moved on the installation on Thursday, but several hostages and many of their captors were also allegedly killed in the operation.

Algeria has handled the situation as an internal affair, turning down advice and offers of support from other countries, including the U.S. The Algerian government continues to keep tight control over the information being released, making details of the story nearly impossible to verify.

Yet, as NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley reports, a picture of what happened on Wednesday is being pieced together from hostages who did escape the facility:

“This Algerian engineer interviewed on French radio says the militants struck at 5 a.m. Wednesday during a shift change, and plunged the facility into darkness. He describes shooting and explosions and says the Islamists roared through the camp’s living quarters, rounding up Westerners.”

[Copyright 2013 National Public Radio]

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