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.

 

Lebanon protesters to government: Meet our demands of face escalation

Algeria detains former intelligence chief

Two French journalists charged with bid to blackmail Morocco King

Eni discovers ‘supergiant’ gas field inside Egypt territorial waters

In historic first, Saudi Arabia allows women to run in local elections

Deadly fire at housing complex of Aramco in Saudi Arabia

Israel repels protesters with tear gas at separation barrier in West Bank

ISIS brutality in Syria: Over 90 people executed in one month

Bashir to visit China despite international arrest warrant

Egypt summons British envoy in row over Al-Jazeera trial

Yemen war seeks to stop ‘Iran expansion’ in Arab region

Calls for action on refugee crisis mount after Austrian tragedy

Kuwait lawmaker describes Iran as 'true enemy' of Gulf Arabs

Kurdish forces free seven Iraq villages from clasps of ISIS

Toll in Libya shipwreck tragedy rises to 111

Egypt court hands Al-Jazeera reporters three years in prison

UN to host new round of Libya peace talks next week

US names ‘First Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs’

Mounting death toll of security forces triggers questions in Turkey

Deadly terrorist blast rocks Karanah suburb in Bahrain

Brief truce between Syria regime and rebels collapses

Al-Qaeda lashes 10 in Yemen for blasphemy, alcohol

Turkey PM to form cabinet ahead of November polls

Iraq PM orders forces to prepare to open Green Zone

71 'Syrians' dead in Austria truck tragedy

UN conference on plight of minorities persecuted by IS

Spain judge accuses suspect of running IS Morocco network

Yemen army recruits 4,800 southern fighters

Israel to use agriculture to win friends in Africa

Syrian refugees desert Middle East for Europe

At least 76 die as boat sinks off Libya

UN pursues Syria chemical weapons probe

US says IS cyber jihadist killed in Syria strike

Iran premieres big-budget epic film 'Muhammad'

S.Sudan govt calls peace deal 'reward for rebellion'

Serbia, Macedonia urge EU action on migrants

South Sudan peace deal given cautious welcome

Two Iraqi generals in Anbar suicide bomb attack

IS seizes five villages from rebels in Syria's Aleppo

Syria regime, rebels agree new 48-hour truce for three towns

Shebab gunmen ambush Somali army convoy

Iraq PM plans to implement constitutional reform

Muslims not doing enough to fight IS: Queen Rania

Lebanon charges radical Islamist Al-Assir with 'terrorism'

Qaeda group blows up Yemen army HQ in Mukalla