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Dozens of hostages, militants killed in Algerian gas field hostage crisis

A total of 23 hostages and 32 militants were killed in the heinous hostage crisis in a gas complex in Algeria after al-Qaida affiliated militants attacked and kidnapped hundreds of Algerian and foreign workers.

Meanwhile, 685 Algerian workers and 107 foreign nationals have been freed in raids carried out by Algerian special forces, which ended on Saturday.

After the final raid, the Algerian troops conducted a mine clearing operation, as militants had reportedly planted mines in the gas complex attempting to blow it up.

The Algerian hostage crisis started Wednesday when an armed group assaulted an escorted bus carrying 19 foreign nationals working in the In Amenas gas field facility on their way to the airport.

The attack was pushed back by the escort security unit, but left an Algerian and a Briton killed and four Algerians, a Briton and a Norwegian injured. The armed group then seized a group of workers and took refuge in a remote compound three kilometers away from the gas plant.

According to the survivors, the number of militants was around 20. One of them had an Egyptian accent and another a Gulf-like accent.

Wednesday's attack, which was claimed by the armed group as a revenge on Algeria's support for French involvement in the conflict in neighboring Mali, was the first terror attack targeting a hydrocarbon site in the North African nation.

Over the past four days, the hostage crisis has raised worldwide concerns and aroused strong international condemnation.

U.S. President Barack Obama made his first public comment over the crisis on Saturday, calling it another reminder of the threat posed by al-Qaida and other violent extremist groups in North Africa.

"The blame for this tragedy rests with the terrorists who carried it out, and the United States condemns their actions in the strongest possible terms," he said.

Obama also said the U.S. government has been in constant contact with Algerian officials and pledged to "stand ready to provide whatever assistance they need in the aftermath of this attack."

The British government on Saturday confirmed that one British citizen was killed in the crisis while five others remained unaccounted for.

"Our priority now is to work out exactly what has happened to every British national who might have been caught up in this terrible situation," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

"We're in touch with all of the families concerned and we're working closely with BP and with police forces across the country to give those families the support they need at this very difficult time," he said.

On the same day, British ambassador Martyn Roper and Norwegian ambassador Arild Retvedt arrived in In Amenas to inquire about their freed compatriots.

Four foreign hostages, including a Norwegian, a Cameroonian and two Britons, were freed at the end of the rescue operation at the facility. A security source said the freed hostages all looked shocked but were in sound health.

Also on Saturday, Tunisia confirmed that a Tunisian hostage has also been rescued by the Algerian special forces.

"Rachid Neili is in good health and has arrived this morning at the headquarters of the company which employs him in Algiers," Tunisia's presidency said.

[Source: Xinhua, Algiers, 20Jan13]

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small logoThis document has been published on 21Jan13 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.