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Algeria crisis: Hostage death toll 'rises to 48'

Staff Reporter 1/20/2013 |

Army truck near In Amenas - 20 JanuaryIt had initially been unclear whether the bodies found were those of hostage-takers or staff at the facility.

A search is continuing at the In Amenas gas plant, where as many as 20 hostages remain unaccounted for.
Five suspected Islamist attackers were reportedly arrested on Sunday.
The Algerian authorities had said on Saturday that all 32 hostage-takers had been killed.
The siege was ended in a raid by troops on Saturday. Officials say a definitive death toll will be released later.
Officials said the army launched its assault after Islamist militants began killing foreign hostages.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama have blamed "terrorists" for the hostages' deaths.

And on Sunday French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the hostage-taking as an "act of war".
"What strikes me the most is that we're saying 'hostage-taking' but when there are so many people concerned, I think this is an act of war," he told French TV.
'Production to resume'
As Western leaders condemned the kidnappings, Algerian Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi said Algeria would boost security at its energy installations without outside help.
"It is out of the question to allow foreign security forces to handle the security of our oil facilities," he said, quoted by Algeria's APS news agency.
During a visit to the affected plant, Mr Yousfi said it would resume production within two days.
The private TV channel Ennahar said security forces had discovered the bodies of 25 hostages as they searched the complex for booby-traps and mines.
The militants had threatened to blow up the site and kill their hostages, officials said.
Mauritanian website Sahara Media reported that Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the suspected organiser of the siege, had claimed responsibility for it in a video message.

The website said the video - recorded on 17 January while the siege was still going on but not posted on the website - showed the militant leader saying he was prepared to negotiate with Western and Algerian leaders if operations against Islamists in Mali were stopped.
In other developments:
  • Three Britons were confirmed dead, and a further three are missing, feared dead. UK officials were "working hard" to locate the missing, said Foreign Secretary William Hague
  • A Colombian citizen resident in the UK, Carlos Estrada, is thought to be among the dead, the Colombian president has said
  • Japanese officials said they had no confirmation of the fate of 10 nationals who remained unaccounted for, despite reports that nine had died
  • Romania's foreign ministry said one of its citizens had died in hospital after sustaining severe injuries during the siege. Another Romanian has already been reported killed and as many as three others have been freed
  • Two Malaysians are unaccounted for, as are five Norwegians
The nationalities of some of the hostages killed are still not known.
The crisis began on Wednesday when militants attacked two buses carrying foreign workers to the remote site in south-eastern Algeria. A Briton and an Algerian reportedly died in the incident.
The militants then took Algerians and expatriates hostage at the complex, which was quickly surrounded by the Algerian army.
A statement from the kidnappers said the assault on the gas plant was launched in retaliation for French intervention against Islamist groups in neighbouring Mali.
However, France only decided last week to intervene militarily in Mali. Analysts say the assault on the gas facility was well-planned and would have required advance research, as well as possibly inside help.
Map of site
  1. Bus attack: 05:00 local time 16 January: Heavily armed gunmen attack two buses carrying gas field workers towards In Amenas airfield. A Briton and an Algerian die in the fighting.
  2. Hostages taken: The militants drive to the installation at Tigantourine and take Algerian and foreign workers hostage in the living area and the main gas facility at the complex.
  3. Army surround complex: Security forces and the Algerian army surround the hostage-takers. Western leaders, including the UK's David Cameron, urge Algeria to consult them before taking action.
  4. Army attacks: 12:00 (13:00 GMT) 17 January: Algerian forces attack as militants try to move some of their captives from the facility. Reports say some hostages escape, but others are killed.
  5. Final assault: The Algerians ended the raid on 19 January, killing the last 11 captors after they had killed seven hostages, state media reported. At least 48 hostages and 32 militants in total are now believed to have died.
BBC

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