BY JIM KOURI
An estimated 34 Western hostages and 14 terrorists were killed according to a report by Mauritania’s ANI news agency on Thursday. However, Fox News reports that some of the Americans being held hostage in Algeria reportedly escaped from their terrorist captors.
Following Thursday’s raid by the Algerian military, a spokesman for the terrorists told Mauritania’s ANI news agency that only seven hostages remain alive. The foreign hostage count allegedly includes three Belgians, two Americans, one Japanese and a British national.
The Algerian crisis began when a number of heavily-armed terrorists, allegedly members al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), are reported to have killed two people and abducted more than 40 Western hostages in Algeria in what they claimed is revenge for the Algerian government allowing French fighter jets access to its airspace in order to combat AQIM Islamists in Mali, according to an Israeli police-intelligence source on Wednesday.
The Islamists claimed they surreptitiously crossed into Algeria from northern Mali in order to launch their attack. The AQIM spokesman told Mauritanian media they were holding the Westerners including French, British and Japanese citizens, as well as seven Americans, at a southern gas field. However, the exact number of American hostages has not been confirmed.
The attack took place at the In Amenas gas field which is jointly operated by British Petroleum (BP), Norway’s Statoil and the Algerian energy firm Sonatrach.
One British citizen and one Algerian were killed in the attack, while six people were wounded including a Norwegian and Scottish nationals. During the surprise attack, an Algerian security agent and two police officers were also wounded by the shooters.
The attack was in retaliation both for the French intervention in Mali and for Algeria’s cooperation, the Israeli police source said.
“The best information that we have at this time is that U.S. citizens are among the hostages,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a news briefing in Washington, D.C., but she had very few details.
She also said she did not have any information on fatalities ” at all”, as reports said one British and one Norwegian were killed in the attack on a BP oil facility near In Amenas, Algeria, in which foreign workers were taken hostage, including French, British and Japanese nationals.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pledged to “take all necessary steps” to rescue American hostages taken by terrorists who took over a natural gas plant in southern Algeria. “I want to assure the American people that the United States will take all necessary and proper steps that are required to deal with this situation,” Panetta was quoted as saying by the American Forces Press Service.
He said the United States strongly condemns these kinds of terrorist acts. “It is a very serious matter when Americans are taken hostage, along with others.”
“It seems that AQIM, which will quite possibly hold a large part of Mali, didn’t get President [Barack] Obama’s memo that claims al-Qaeda is on the decline,” said former police official and intelligence officer Michael T. Snopes.
“Al-Qaeda is powerful in Mali, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Kenya, Nigeria, Yemen, Pakistan and other countries. They will keep on coming long after the U.S. gives up on Afghanistan,” said Snopes.
The Moral Liberal Contributing Editor, Jim Kouri, CPP, is the fifth Vice President and Public Information Officer of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, has served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Contact Jim.