First Published: 2013-01-16

 

Al-Qaeda attacks BP gas plant in Mali reprisal

 

One person killed, French and four Japanese workers kidnapped in Al-Qaeda attack on gas field in Amenas.

 

Middle East Online

By Beatrice Khadige - ALGIERS

Al-Qaeda militants from Mali attacked a gas field run by British oil giant BP in southern Algeria on Wednesday, killing one person and kidnapping one French and four Japanese staff, officials said.

The attack appears to be the first reprisal against Western interests for a French-backed offensive against jihadists in neighbouring Mali.

Algerian state media said that one person had been killed and seven wounded, two of them foreigners, in the attack on the field at In Amenas, in the Sahara desert 1,300 kilometres (810 miles) southeast of Algiers.

A member of parliament for Algeria's ruling National Liberation Front said that five staff members -- one French national and four Japanese -- had been taken hostage.

A Western diplomat said that the Algerian army had launched an operation to try to free the hostages.

One of the attackers said by telephone that they were Al-Qaeda loyalists who had slipped into Algeria from northern Mali where France launched a major offensive against the jihadists on January 11 to prevent them from advancing on the capital Bamako.

"We are members of Al-Qaeda and we came from northern Mali," the militant said by telephone.

"We belong to the Khaled Abul Abbas Brigade led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar," he added.

Belmokhtar, renowned for the eyepatch he has worn since losing an eye, is one of the historic leaders of the jihadists' north African franchise, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

BP gave few immediate details of the assault.

"We can confirm that there has been a security incident this morning at the In Amenas gas field in the eastern central region of Algeria," the company said.

"The In Amenas field is operated by a joint venture of which BP is a member. We have no more confirmed details at this time."

In Amenas is a wet-gas field, operated by a joint venture of BP/Statoil and Algerian state-owned oil firm Sonatrach.

The British Foreign Office confirmed the attack but said it was still seeking details.

"There is a terrorist incident ongoing in the town of In Amenas at an oil installation near the Algerian border with Libya. The British embassy is aware of the incident and is liaising with local authorities," a spokeswoman said.

"We are urgently seeking clarification from oil companies in the area as to whether they have personnel involved in the incident," she added.

Algeria announced on Tuesday that it had closed its border with Mali, following the French offensive against Al-Qaeda in its southern neighbour but the 2,000 kilometre (1,200 mile) desert frontier is almost impossible to seal.

On Saturday, the Algerian foreign ministry expressed its "unequivocal support" for the transitional authorities in Mali.

On Sunday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Algeria had authorised the overflights of Rafale fighter jets based in France to take part in the operation in Mali.

Algeria suffered a devastating civil war with Islamist militants in the 1990s and officials had expressed fears of the possible blowback from any operation against Al-Qaeda in Mali.

Many of the fighters and weapons in Mali were displaced from Libya after the 2011 armed uprising that overthrew veteran dictator Moamer Gathafi.

 

US-backed fighters battle IS near Syria stronghold

Yemen warring parties 'closer' to agreement

Juncker warns Ankara against migrant deal threats

Tunisia mulls allowing women to serve in army

Annual Jewish pilgrimage starts in Tunisia

Tunisia tourism sees 'slight recovery'

UN envoy calls for economic rescue plan for Yemen

Bahrain jails 19 for attacks on police

Up to 30 dead in shipwreck off Libya

UN says Syrians will 'starve' unless aid improves

Christian homes set ablaze in Egyptian village 'love story'

Kuwait's main opposition group ends polls boycott

Twin offensives on IS edge forward in Syria, Iraq

Private firms to help in hunt for Egyptair black boxes

New Israeli defence minister's tough talk to be put to the test

Syria most dangerous place for health workers

Concern for civilians trapped in Iraq's Fallujah

Brent rises past $50 a barrel

Iraq PM urges protesters to stay home

Israeli air force carries out strikes on Hamas sites in Gaza

Sudan accuses UN official of 'false' reports on displaced

Egypt quashes prison sentences for 47 protesters

At least 5 drown off Libya coast

Coalition airstrike kills six Yemen civilians 'by mistake'

Erdogan chairs first meeting of new Turkey cabinet

Pope prays to 'convert hearts' of ISIS extremists

Egypt expels French journalist amid crackdown on media

Israeli rights group gives up on army complaints system

Hamas-led council backs executions without Abbas approval

Netanyahu forms ultra-nationalist Israel government

Major assaults target IS jihadists in Iraq, Syria

New Afghan Taliban leader named

Syrian base used by Russia damaged in IS attack

Kurdish, Arab forces announce anti-IS offensive north of Syria's Raqa

Palestinian PM dismisses Netanyahu proposal

Israel PM's travel expenses under scrutiny

EgyptAir victims' relatives give samples for DNA tests

Iran sends new delegation to Saudi for hajj talks

Hardline cleric elected head of Iran's Assembly of Experts

Civilians trapped as Fallujah siege tightens

Iraq's Fallujah offensive draws attention from embattled PM

Turkey incoming PM unveils cabinet

US, Russia scramble to save Syria truce

Libyan coastguards intercept 550 bound for Europe

Campus bomb kills two in Yemen's Sanaa