First Published: 2013-01-21

 

Two days after hostage crisis: Algeria exact death toll remains unknown

 

Governments scramble to track down missing citizens as more details emerge after final showdown between Algerian special forces, extremists.

 

Middle East Online

By Amal Belalloufi - IN AMENAS (Algeria)

Grim news

Two days after Algerian forces ended a hostage crisis at a desert gas plant, the exact toll of those killed in the bloodbath remained unknown Monday, amid fears the total number of hostages who died could reach 50.

Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal was expected to unveil the final grim tally at a 1330 GMT press conference on Monday.

"I fear that it (the death toll) may be revised upward," Algerian Communications Minister Mohamed Said told a radio station earlier.

Governments scrambled to track down missing citizens as more details emerged after the final showdown on Saturday between special forces and extremists who had taken hundreds hostage, demanding an end to French military intervention in Mali.

The interior ministry reported Saturday that 23 foreign and Algerian hostages were killed during the siege of the In Amenas gas plant in the deep Sahara desert, which ended with Algerian forces storming the remaining part of the complex still in militant hands.

Algeria's private Ennahar television reported that 25 bodies were discovered at the plant on Sunday, while French daily El-Watan gave a toll of 30 hostages found dead at the site the same day.

Survivors' photos showed bodies riddled with bullets, some with their heads half blown away by the impact of the gunfire.

"They were brutally executed," said an Algerian who identified himself as Brahim, after escaping the ordeal, referring to Japanese victims gunned down by the hostage-takers.

Witnesses have said nine Japanese people connected to plant builder JGC were killed in the 72-hour ordeal. One Japanese man who survived gave a chilling account published Monday in the Daily Yomiuri newspaper.

The unidentified man was quoted as telling colleagues how the gunmen had dragged him from his barricaded room, handcuffed him and executed two hostages standing nearby.

"I was prepared to die," he said, before his captors abandoned him and other hostages who had been bundled into a vehicle that came under a hail of bullets. He then trudged for an hour through the desert to safety.

A Japanese delegation led by the deputy foreign minister arrived at the In Amenas hospital on Monday to arrange the repatriation of the bodies of the Japanese victims, a journalist reported.

The Philippine government said on Monday that six Filipino hostages were among the dead, killed "mostly by gunshot wounds and the effects of the explosions."

Ennahar reported on Monday that two of the slain hostage-takers were Canadian nationals. It also reported that five Islamists were captured alive at the plant on Sunday.

The Algerian interior ministry had said on Saturday that 32 kidnappers were killed in the standoff and the army freed 685 Algerian workers and 107 foreigners.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the hostage-taking as an "act of war" because of the large number of hostages involved -- the biggest since the 2008 attack by Islamist extremists on the Indian city of Mumbai.

The one-eyed mastermind of the hostage-taking, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, said in a video posted online that it was carried out by 40 fighters from the Muslim world and "European countries".

His Al-Qaeda-linked group "Signatories in Blood" threatened to stage attacks on nations involved in the French-led operation to evict Islamists from Algeria's neighbour Mali, and said it had been open to negotiations.

"But the Algerian army did not respond... preferring to stage an attack which led to the elimination of the hostages," it said in a message published by the Mauritanian news agency ANI.

Most hostages were freed on Thursday in the first Algerian rescue operation, which was initially viewed by foreign governments as hasty, before the focus of public condemnation turned on the jihadists.

The In Amenas plant is run by Britain's BP, Norway's Statoil and Sonatrach of Algeria.

An Algerian employee of BP who identified himself as Abdelkader said he was at a security post on Wednesday with colleagues when he saw a jeep with seven people inside smash through the barrier and screech to a halt.

One of the militants demanded their mobile phones and ordered them not to move, before disabling the security cameras.

"He said: 'You are Algerians and Muslims, you have nothing to fear. We're looking for Christians, who kill our brothers in Mali and Afghanistan and plunder our resources'."

 

Iran forces inside Iraq as Abadi rules out foreign ground intervention!

Qaeda inflicts heavy losses on Huthi rebels in central Yemen

Kerry seeks help of Southeast Asia in anti-Islamic State push

Turkey gives Iraq Peshmerga forces passage to Kobane

Cultural heartland of Al Ain hosts night of Emirati musical heritage

South Sudan rivals meet in new bid to end civil war

From Morocco into Spain: Crowd of African migrants charges to border fence

Deadly suicide attack targets Shiite mosque in central Baghdad

Israel to supply Egypt with natural gas despite sabotage

US carries out first weapon airdrops to Kurd fighters near Kobane

Benghazi violence kills 75 people in five days

Morocco accuses Algeria of firing on civilians across border

Australia finalises deal for deployment of Special Forces to Iraq

Tunisia calls on Libya authorities to locate missing journalists

Turkey rejects calls to arm ‘terrorist’ Kurdish party in Syria

Western powers threaten sanctions against hostile actors in Libya

New deadly terrorist attack targets Egypt army in Sinai

‘Islamic State’ suffers heavy losses in Syria battleground of Kobane

After full formation of Iraq government, time comes to visit Iran

UN appeals for four-day truce in Western Libya

Gaza tunnel collapses before demolition: At least 3 Egypt soldiers dead

Erdogan begins one-day visit to Afghanistan

After weeks of delay, Iraq gets new security ministers

Diplomats scold Turkey over ambiguous relation with Islamic State

Lebanon pleads for Iran military aid to fight Islamic State

Kurds repulse new jihadist attempt to cut off Syria town

Huthi rebels meet fierce resistance in Yemen Sunni areas

Former Iraqi pilots train IS to fly Syria fighter jets

Two Millstones Drowning America into Premature Oblivion

Iraqi forces launch anti-IS operation north of Tikrit

Ben Ali cohorts planning comeback in Tunisia polls

Battle for Libya's Benghazi heats up

Kurdish fighters still holding out in Syria's Kobane

Russia denies agreed with US on IS intelligence-sharing

Saudi’s National Commercial Bank to offer $3.6 billion IPO

Qaeda counters advancing rebels with Yemen town seizure

Iran warns Saudi cleric death sentence could escalate tensions

No breakthrough in US-Iran intense nuclear talks

Kuwait ends decades of diesel, kerosene subsidies

US airstrikes ‘push back’ IS in Kobane

New desperate attempt to reach Europe: Hundreds storm Morocco-Spain border

Turkey Kurdish party plans talks with armed PKK rebels in Iraq

Iraq beats back ‘Islamic State’ assault on Ramadi

Saudi court sentences Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr to death

Iran nuclear talks: Search for elusive breakthrough begins