Seven more oil workers executed by Al Qaeda terrorists in Algeria hostage crisis as 16 freed in daring raid on compound killed in final push on compound

January 19th, 20132:10 pm @

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  • Ten British hostages remain missing at the Sahara compound
  • Freed 16 include two Americans, two
    Germans and one Portuguese
  • Fierce fire
    fight with army special forces left 11
    militants dead

By
Jill Reilly

10:21, 19 January 2013


|

14:02, 19 January 2013

Seven more oil workers executed by Al Qaeda terrorists in Algeria hostage crisis as 16 freed in daring raid on compound killed in final push on compound.

While 16 including two Americans, two Germans and one Portuguese were said to have been freed, a fierce fire fight with army special forces ensured further bloodshed and 11 militants were killed.

At least seven more hostages died alongside eleven rebels,’ said an official source in Algiers, adding that the terrorists were said to be ‘considering suicide’.

Such a move would have disastrous implications for the multi-million pounds BP gas facility in which the crisis is taking place.

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A massive manhunt is underway to find Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the deadly mastermind behind the hostage carnage in the Sahara desert.

Meanwhile a massive manhunt is underway to find Mokhtar Belmokhtar the deadly mastermind – dubbed the Marlboro Man – behind the hostage carnage in the Sahara desert.

A bounty on the one-eyed fanatic’s head – currently $100,000 – is expected to be put up to $1 million – around £700,000.

The
militant militia leader had offered to trade two of the American
hostages for two prominent terror figures jailed in the United States,
but today local sources reported that two Americans were among the 16 foreign captives believed to be freed this afternoon.

David Cameron held talks with U.S.
Defence Secretary Leon Panetta in Downing Street yesterday to coordinate
an intelligence effort to locate Belmokhtar who is dubbed the Marlboro
Man because he raises funds for terrorist atrocities by smuggling
cigarettes.

Mr Panetta said that the terror gang ‘will have no place to hide’.

‘Terrorists should be on notice that
they will find no sanctuary, no refuge, not in Algeria, not in North
Africa, not anywhere,’ he said in a speech to security specialists in
London.

Aged 19 he lost an
eye mishandling explosives when training in an Al Qaed camps in wartorn Afghanistan, giving rise to another of his nicknames: One
Eye.

Calling himself the leader of the Signed-in-Blood battalion, he was not at the gas facility himself.

But his jihadist henchmen mined huts
where they were holding the hostages and then strapped explosives on to
the terrified Westerners on his instructions.

Today a freed hostage described how
Islamist militants shot dead a Briton after forcing him to tell
colleagues to come out of hiding.

Revelation: As Algerian security forces face day four of a standoff with an international band of Islamist extremists still holding foreign hostages at a remote gas plant, terrifying details of the ordeal have been to emerge

On alert: Algerian special police unit officers guard the entrance of an hospital located near the gas plant where the hostages have been kidnapped

SO WAS ON THE GROUND CONTROLLING THE ATTACK?

 The field commander of the Islamist group that attacked a gas plant in the Algerian desert this week and seized many hostages is a veteran fighter from Niger called Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri, Mauritanian news agencies reported.

Nigeri is said to be close to the overall commander of the kidnappers, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a veteran of fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s and Algeria’s civil war of the 1990s who now has links with al Qaeda in the region.

Nigeri was reported to be holed up in the plant near the town of In Amenas and holding seven hostages, according to the Mauritanian reports carried by the SITE monitoring service.

Another of the group’s leaders, Abu al-Bara’a al-Jaza’iri, had been killed at the gas field’s residential complex, which has been retaken by the Algerian army, according to the ANI news agency.

Mauritanian news agencies have maintained contacts with Islamist groups in the region.
Nigeri joined the hardline Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) in 2005 and participated in several of its “major” missions in Mali, Mauritania and Niger, including a June 2005 attack on a barracks in Mauritania where 17 soldiers were killed, the reports said.

As Algerian security forces face day
four of a standoff with an international band of Islamist extremists
still holding hostages at a remote gas plant, terrifying details
of the ordeal have been to emerge.

The
man, only giving him name as Chabane, worked in the food service at the
In Amenas plant and said he bolted out of a window and was hiding when
heard the militants speaking among themselves with Libyan, Egyptian and
Tunisian accents.

At one point, he said, they caught a Briton.

‘They threatened him until he called out in English to his friends, telling them, ‘Come out, come out. They’re not going to kill you. They’re looking for the Americans’.

A few minutes later, they blew him away,’ he said.

Many of the foreign workers hid
throughout the drama – three Britons climbed into the ceiling of a
canteen – to evade the terrorists as they searched for more captives.

Last
night seven military helicopters were said to be searching in the
desert with floodlights while making appeals to terrified gas workers
they believe are still in hiding.

The militants say they are holding seven foreign hostages: one Briton; three Belgians; two Americans; and one Japanese.

Ten
British hostages remain missing after the disastrous rescue attempt
ended with the deaths of 30 hostages, including at least two Britons. 

This morning Foreign Secretary
William Hague says the Algerian crisis will remain ministers’ ‘top
priority’ until every British national is accounted for.

Mr Hague tweeted the comment before chairing another meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency committee.

Lucky ones: Four British workers, including the man on the right, called Darren Matthew, who have escaped the Algerian refinery taken over by Al Qaeda have spoken for the first time about their ordeal

He added: ‘My thoughts are also with the families of everyone affected, particularly those still waiting for news of their loved ones.’

As Algerian diplomatic sources today said that ‘everything is being done to avoid further catastrophe’.

He
added: ‘The rebels are equipped with high explosives including semtex,
and are surrounded by liquid gas fields. The situation is intensely
dangerous.’

Today the
Algerian military was holding the vast residential barracks at the In
Amenas gas processing plant, while gunmen were holed up in the
industrial plant itself with an undisclosed number of hostages, making
it difficult for Algerian special forces to intervene.

The
army is surrounding the plant, and helicopters are monitoring the area,
Algerian state radio said, quoting a reporter in the city of In Amenas.

Statoil, the
Norwegian firm which co-owns the In Amenas plant with BP and Algeria’s
state-owned oil company, said two more of its employees had been taken
to safety overnight.

However, it said the situation for six others remained ‘uncertain’.

Scene: The plant is located in In Amenas, around 60 miles from the Libyan border and 800 miles from the capital in Algeria’s vast desert south

A statement released by the company read: ‘This means that a total of 11 of the 17 Statoil employees who were located at the In Amenas plant have been brought to safety.’

It added: ‘We have now transported a total of 51 people out of Algeria. The last two people are either in transit or about to start their journey home.’

A Scottish man held hostage in Algeria has spoken of his relief at being rescued.

Iain Strachan, 38, from Howwood in Renfrewshire, was among 100 foreign workers freed from terrorists who attacked a BP oil plant at In Amenas on Thursday.

Speaking on Algerian television, Mr Strachan said he was ‘very relieved to be out.’

Blocked off: Roadblocks prevent the access of the Tigentourine gas plant where the hostages are being held

‘Obviously we still don’t really know what’s happening back on site,” he said.

‘So, as much as we’re glad to be out, our thoughts are with colleagues who are still there at the moment.”

He said the Algerian army’s assistance has been ‘fantastic.’

Another hostage, Mark Grant, 29, from Grangemouth, reportedly texted his wife to let her know he was safe.

The message read: ‘I’m safe. Got me out this afternoon. With the Algerian army.’

Prime Minister David Cameron has put SAS soldiers on standby.

However, their ability to intervene in a notoriously regulated North African country is by no means guaranteed.

‘In
normal circumstance, the Algerian government would be averse to foreign
troops operating on its home soil,’ said the diplomatic source.

‘The
notion that they would simply be allowed in to start rescuing the
hostages is by no means clear cut, especially as Algerian special forces
are at the scene.’

It was Algerian army helicopter gunships which launched a rescue attempt on Thursday.

The militants had filled five Jeeps
with hostages and begun to move when Algerian government attack
helicopters opened up on them on Thursday, leaving four in ruins.

Three
of the captives hid from the terrorists for two days before they were
rescued, while another sprinted away from his ambushed jeep convoy with
Semtex strapped to his neck.

One of the first Britons to be freed, Darren Matthews, 29, an electrical engineer from Teesside, said:

‘My heart goes out to the guys that are still there and hopefully everyone comes home safe because, at the end of the day, it’s only work.’

Anger: Prime Minister David Cameron has spoke of his disappointment at the way the Algeria crisis has been dealt with so far as he prepares to send the SAS in

Two British workers are already
confirmed killed in the deepening crisis, and Mr Cameron has already
told the Algerians of the ‘paramount importance of securing the safety
of the hostages’.

Mr
Cameron added: ‘Hostage negotiating experts are on standby with other
technical expertise that we can provide. We have expertise and pride
ourselves on the brilliance of our special forces.’

Algerian
sources have also pointed to British negotiators already arriving in
Algiers, the capital of Algeria, which around 1000 miles from the In
Amenas, which is in the south east, next to the border with Libya.

The
terrorists are thought to have travelled across the border from Libya,
and Mr Cameron told the House of Commons on Friday that those behind the
‘brutal and savage’ attack included the so-called Masked Brigade.

It is linked to Al Qaeda and made up of terrorists from a number of countries, including the Algerian, Mokhtar Belmokhtar.

Coming home: British oil giant BP’s employees wait for their flight back to London at Palma de Mallorca airport

Strained: The men look tired after their ordeal at the Amenas plant seized by fundamentalists claiming it was retaliation for Algeria’s support for French air strikes in Mali

Released captives have already spoken
of one Islamist having a ‘perfect English accent’ – raising the
possibility that some of the terrorists may have links with the UK.

Numerous
expatriates including Britons work at the multi-million pounds
facility, raising fears that somebody with inside knowledge may have
helped organise the raid.

With
no positive word on up to seven Americans inside the compound, Hillary
Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said in Washington on Friday that
her officials were continuing to work to free those being held captive.

‘The United States extends our condolences to all the families who have lost loved ones in this brutal assault,’ said Mrs Clinton.

‘We remain deeply concerned about those who remain in danger,’ said Mrs Clinton, adding: ‘We are staying in close touch with our Algerian partners and working with effective nations around the world to end this crisis.’

The attackers are now penned in to the gas production area of the plant with their remaining hostages.

Relief: Mark Grant and his wife Emma. Mark was one of the men taken hostage at a BP compound in the Sahara Desert, but today he made contact with home

Safe and well: Belfast hostage Stephen McFaul, pictured with his sons Dylan (left) and and Jake, escaped the al-Qaeda siege on an Algerian gas plant after being freed by the militants

They are carrying grenades and Semtex, according to a spokesman for the terrorists, who said they would blow up the plant if the army tried to move in.

An Algerian Interior Ministry spokesman said that ‘a peaceful solution to this crisis is a priority.’

The first Briton to be killed in the crisis worked for a private security and safety firm, Stirling Group, which is based in Macclesfield, Cheshire.

The worker was not named but his family was informed.

He was killed when 32 terrorists from the al-Qaeda-linked Masked Brigade attacked buses ferrying workers to and from the local airport on Wednesday. 

Lucky: Algerian Minister of Energy and Mines Youcef Yousfi (centre) visits an injured hostage at a clinic – 10 UK hostages are still thought to be held captive

Rescued: One of the rescued workers speaks with Yousfi. David Cameron will be hoping to be in a similar position with the UK captives in the future

Some 17 terrorists are thought to have been killed so far.

The terrorists originally said they wanted France to pull its troops out of neighbouring Mali, where a ground war is being fought against Al Qaeda.

Now the Masked Brigade have announced that are were willing to trade American hostages for two terrorists held in the US. , but a State Department spokesman said: ‘The United States does not negotiate with terrorists.”

On Friday, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations said that he would be proposing a statement from the UN Security Council condemning the attack.

‘That could happen in the next few hours, it could happen over the weekend,” Sir Mark Lyall Grant said in a press conference in New York. “Obviously it depends on the fluid situation on the ground’. 

Video: Algerian State TV speak with men who were held hostage  

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The comments below have been moderated in advance.

No Geneva convention type war here. It is kill or be killed.

Brat
,

Bruton,
19/1/2013 13:13

Imagine a world where no-one wore silly medieval clothes, no-one believed in ancient works of fiction, no-one had imaginary friends and there were no wars because we all conducted ourselves according to Humanist Principles?

Rusty
,

England, United Kingdom,
19/1/2013 13:10

If I see another ridiculous spelling of ridiculous I’ll blow my top! It’s ridiculous NOT rediculous.

Jigga
,

Sheffield,
19/1/2013 13:03

“militants speaking among themselves with Libyan, Egyptian and Tunisian accents”. oh, the people we funded, supported, helped, fought along side, what a well thought out plan.

we are led by fools.

thanks, Mr Hague foreign Secretary. .

mr zen
,

london,
19/1/2013 13:01

Stop the talk! Every time a stupid politician says something like “there’ll be no hiding place and no compromises” they are telling the terrorists that they might as well fight to the death. Roosevelt did that in the 2nd world war and it went on another year because of it. Offer hope and you might be able to end it. Otherwise, it’s best to demonstrate to terrorists that if they start something they will never win. Go in and sort it but don’t waste time with politispeak!

Petrovitch
,

London,
19/1/2013 13:01

Will these terrorists eventually be given Asylum and Benefits in the U.K.?… This is War and the sooner we accept it the better……..Dave, Essex and Spain…….

Dave
,

Dunmow Essex,
19/1/2013 12:55

I think it is a mistake to legitimise these people by calling them, ‘Islamist extremists’ in the same way the IRA gained credibility by the use of the word, ‘Army’. These people have nothing to do with Islam; just like the IRA ( the Loyalist groups) they claim to be doing this in the name of a religion that actually abhors such behaviour. They are doing it for two reasons – they enjoy hurting people and they want money.

Kate Dixson
,

Cardiff, United Kingdom,
19/1/2013 12:49

I have no sympathy for the hostages…obviously chasing the money to go and work there..

MarkT
,

Oldbury, United Kingdom,
19/1/2013 12:45

The British and Americans have stirred this whole area up – and called it the Arab Spring.
Those idiots have armed Jihadists from Algiers across to Syria. Anyone with half a brain could see what would happen. Unfortunately our politicians are brainless.

Next we will be having floods of asylum seekers – mixed with loads more Jihadists. The UK is like a bad dream. God knows what it will look like in 50 years…

Mr Blobby
,

Worcester,
19/1/2013 12:39

I’ll bet the Americans have the drones hovering already

ron
,

Cumbria,
19/1/2013 12:39

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