Algerian hostage crisis is over but concern over British nationals remains
William Hague announced yesterday, when the four-day hostage crisis was close to an end, that the case will remain the Government’s “top priority” until every British national at the BP gas plant is accounted for.
The Foreign Secretary’s comment on Twitter was sent between meetings at the Cobra emergency committee that Mr. Hague chaired since al-Qaeda-linked jihadists assaulted In Amenas gas facilities and took several hostages among foreign contractors.
He then added that his thoughts were “with the families of everyone affected, particularly those still waiting for news of their loved ones”.
The four-day hostage crisis at In Amenas ended soon after, in the mid-afternoon, thanks to an extremely risky but effective blitz operation lead by Algerian Special Forces.
The Algerian government declared that the siege was over, with 32 terrorists and 23 hostages killed and a total of 685 Algerian and 107 foreigner workers freed. The complex rescue operation was triggered by a fire and the suspicion, later confirmed, was that the plant had been mined by jihadists.
The British government confirmed that at least five Britons were either dead or unaccounted for, without releasing any more details. Among them is the British national killed with 12 Algerian and other foreign workers when al-Qaeda-linked jihadists attacked the gas facilities on Wednesday.
The intervention of the Algerian army, which took control of the residential quarters of the plant, caused a stir with both UK and Japan, who strongly criticised the unilateral decision.
The Algerian Government later defended its action saying the militants were attempting to flee the scene with the hostages.
The Prime Minister, who spoke twice to the Algerian Prime Minister, Abdelmalek Sellal on Friday offering the help of UK Special Forces, shared the Foreign Secretary’s concern for the hostages of In Amanas gas plant.
David Cameron, confirming the latest figures of those feared dead last night, said: “Let me be clear. There is no justification for taking innocent life in this way. Our determination is stronger than ever to work with allies right around the world to root out and defeat this terrorist scourge and those who encourage it.”
Despite the end of the immediate crisis, there are rising fears among officials in Europe and Washington that this assault might be just the beginning of a new strategy of terror set up by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Thus increased assistance, including intelligence sharing, military aid and training will probably be undertaken in the next few months.