January 17th, 2013
07:46 PM ET

British PM: Prepare for possible bad news in Algeria hostage crisis

  • Algerian military has freed four foreign hostages at a BP gas plant in Algeria, according to Algerian media; a fifth hostage also is free, Irish government says
  • Some American hostages also have been freed, but others are still unaccounted for, U.S. officials say
  • Reports: Hostage-takers claimed to be holding more than 40 people; Algerian Press Service says two hostages killed Wednesday

[Updated at 7:46 p.m. ET] Although an Algerian military raid against the hostage-takers wrapped up on Thursday, a senior U.S. official stresses that more military operations could be coming.

"There are still hostages, and there are still terrorists," the official said, according to CNN's Elise Labott. "So tomorrow is another day."

[Updated at 5:51 p.m. ET] British Prime Minister David Cameron has warned his compatriots to prepare for "bad news ahead" related to kidnapping of dozens of hostages at a BP gas plant in Algeria.

"It is a fluid situation, it is ongoing," Cameron told the Reuters news agency. "But I think we should be prepared for the possibility of further bad news, very difficult news, in this extremely difficult situation."

[Updated at 5:49 p.m. ET] Some American hostages have been freed, but others are still unaccounted for, U.S. officials tell CNN's Elise Labott. The officials did not provide any further details.

[Updated at 3:36 p.m. ET] U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asked her staff to review security for American diplomats, businesses and citizens in the entire Maghreb and North Africa region, in response to the hostage-taking in Algeria, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

[Updated at 3:18 p.m. ET] The Algerian military operation to free hostages at the gas plant has ended, the official news agency of Algeria, APS, reported.

[Updated at 2:40 p.m. ET] U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says will speak with Algeria’s foreign minister this afternoon about the hostage situation. She last spoke to him on Wednesday.

“The situation is very fluid,” Clinton told reporters at the State Department. “The security of our Americans who are held hostage is our highest priority.”

[Updated at 2:05 p.m. ET] The United Nations has now weighed in on the Algerian hostage crisis. "With regard to Algeria, I would simply say, we are aware of the reports coming out of the region. I don't think anyone has a clear picture yet of what has unfolded and what I can say now is that we utterly condemn any kidnapping or hostage taking and that our thoughts are for the safety of those being held and for their families," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

[Updated at 1:30 p.m. ET] An Algerian military operation that freed some hostages and left an unspecified number of casualties today still is happening, the Algerian communications minister said on Algerian state TV.

The minister, Mohamed Said, said the military was able to free a "large number" of hostages, but that casualties also happened.

[Updated at 12:50 p.m. ET] The hostage-takers have AK-47 firearms and put explosive-laden vests on some of the hostages, a U.S. State Department official said.

It is not clear whether the hostage-takers wore the suicide vests when they took the oil facility Wednesday, but they did put them on some of the hostages, another U.S. official said.

[Updated at 12:47 p.m. ET] Earlier, we told you that an Irish hostage was free, according to the Irish government. Now comes reaction from the Irish prime minister:

"The kidnap ordeal of Belfast man Stephen McFaul has ended," Irish prime minister Enda Kenny said. "I am greatly relieved to hear that Stephen is safe and well. I believe he has already spoken to his family in Belfast and I wish him a safe return home to his loved ones."

It is not clear if he was freed by an Algerian military operation. Algerian media reported earlier today that the Algerian army freed four hostages two Britons, a Kenyan and a French citizen and that the action also resulted in a number of casualties.

[Updated at 12:22 p.m. ET] White House spokesman Jay Carney says the United States believes Americans are among the hostages, confirming what U.S. officials said yesterday. But he hasn't offered a number, and he says the United States is "seeking clarity from the government of Algeria."

"It is our understanding that there are Americans involved, but I would say a couple of things. One, we condemn in the strongest terms a terrorist attack on BP personnel and facilities in Algeria and we are closely monitoring the situation," Carney said at Thursday's White House press briefing. "We are in contact with Algerian authorities and our international partners as well as (the) BP security office in London.

"Unfortunately, the best information that we have at this time, as I said, indicates that U.S. citizens are among the hostages. But we do not have, at this point, more details to provide to you. We are certainly concerned about reports of loss of life and we are seeking clarity from the government of Algeria."

[Updated at 11:10 a.m. ET] A U.S. Predator drone has flown over the gas plant to gather intelligence on the site, a U.S. official tells Barbara Starr.

[Updated at 10:46 a.m. ET] An Irish citizen who was among the hostages in now free and has made brief contact with his family, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs tells CNN.

Information on how the Irish hostage left his captors wasn't immediately available. The news comes as energy company BP says that the Algerian army is trying to take control of the gas installation where hostages were being held, and just minutes after Algeria's state media reported that four other hostages two Britons, a Kenyan and a French citizen were freed in an Algerian army operation.

The Algerian media report also said there were casualties from the operation, but the number is not yet known. CNN could not independently confirm the report.

CNN affiliate BFM-TV reported the French citizen is a nurse who worked on the site. The number of hostages that were taken isn't clear. Two U.S. officials said Wednesday that the number of American hostages could be as few as three.

[Updated at 10:31 a.m. ET] The Algerian army is "attempting to take control" of the gas installation where foreign hostages are being held, BP says, citing British and Algerian authorities.

BP said it cannot confirm any reports of hostages being killed, released or escaping, according to CNN's Carol Jordan.

Algeria's state media reported earlier Thursday that four hostages two Britons, a Kenyan and a French citizen were freed in an Algerian army operation. It also reported earlier that all Algerian nationals who had been held hostage were free: some had fled, while others were released.

All the hostages still detained are foreigners, Algerian Interior Minister Diho Weld Qabliyeh said. The number of hostages is unclear.

The U.S. State Department has said it is still working to determine how many citizens were involved. American hostages could be as few as three, two U.S. officials said Wednesday.

[Updated at 10:14 a.m. ET] Here's the latest on four hostages who reportedly were freed in an Algerian army operation: They are two Britons, a Kenyan and a French citizen, according to Algerian state news. CNN could not independently confirm the report.

[Updated at 9:53 a.m. ET] Four of the foreigners taken hostage by Islamist militants at an Algerian gas plant have been freed in an operation by the Algerian army, the Algerian state-run APS news agency reported Thursday.

[Initial post, 9:50 a.m. ET] "Algerian authorities have confirmed that there is an ongoing operation," as foreigners are held hostage at a gas installation in Algeria, the British Foreign Office tells CNN.

The BP gas field is 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of the Libyan border and 1,300 kilometers from the Algerian capital, Algiers.

The militants said they carried out the operation Wednesday in Algeria because it allowed French forces to use its air space in attacking Islamist militants in Mali.

The fallout escalated after rebels kidnapped Westerners, dragging governments beyond Africa into a daunting insurgency.

"The situation on site remains unresolved and fragile," BP said in a statement. "Armed groups still occupy the site and hold a number of site personnel. "

During the initial attack on the gas plant, kidnappers killed two people - an Algerian and a British national, the Algerian Press Service reported.

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Filed under: Algeria • Mali • World
soundoff (196 Responses)
  1. EVN

    My sympathy to those who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time all because their were doing their jobs. I sincerely hope all remaining hostages will be freed without more of them being killed.

    Those who are taking hostages show their weakness and desparation in making innocents their victims and acceeding to any demands ends up encouraging more of the same. Those who took the hostages need to be put down like rabid animals.

    January 17, 2013 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob R.

      I wholeheartedly agree-treat these islamic wing-nutsbe treated like the rabid animals you described.
      I do hope military snipers are available to do exactly what was not done at the American
      Embassy in Benghazi a few months ago.....but, then again, unfortunately, Ms. Clinton may
      be "leading us" out of this mess at the refinery. In that case, we may be in for more tragic
      loss of life.

      January 17, 2013 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  2. Seamusgirl

    We all need to learn to fight those who hold Life so cheap.

    January 17, 2013 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      These hostage takers are not human actually not even animals they are the lowest of the low. I hope the hostages return safe. I also hope that if any americans are among the dead hostages that our military deals with them swiftly.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Victoria Leigh

    We have Americans being held hostage and the lead story is about Lance Armstrong and Oprah? Really? Prayers that the hostages are released safely and for their families.

    January 17, 2013 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. Skeptik

    This whole hostage story has been bizarely treated since the begining. It has not been the lead story anywhere, we have no proven statements from any named US official or our government, just "US sources say". Its possible that the Obama administration is trying to keep it quiet in order to negotiate or plan a rescue mission. But otherwise it seems a little like the Tail wagging the dog. Any other American hostage story in the past has been shouted from the rooftops and made the lead story on all news outlets.

    January 17, 2013 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  5. chrissy

    I agree @ Victoria, our local news just reported that 35 hostages have been killed as well as 15 kidnappers.

    January 17, 2013 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob R.

      Chrissy, which news source is the one you are writing about?

      January 17, 2013 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      I have read the same thing on a variety of news sites. ynet news, france 24 and al jazeera are reporting this.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. TomGI

    4 hostages released and 35 killed by the prestigious Algerian Swat Team.

    January 17, 2013 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  7. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    Certainly, compared to Americans' being held hostage, Oprah and Lance Armstrong fell into the who-cares category.
    For whatever reasons bronze medals demand top billing, such press does serve as a distraction from anything more important.

    January 17, 2013 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  8. Kyle S

    one of the three amreicans is in my family

    January 17, 2013 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob R.

      We're praying for you and your family Kyle...hang in there.

      January 17, 2013 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Hot Carl

      Liar liar pants on fire!

      January 17, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      Has your family received any updates from the state department?

      January 17, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. algeria dealt with it as they should...no negotiations...you kill them and if it happens, the hostages too.

    kudos to algerian govt for knowing how to handle it....unlike the candy butt americanos.....

    January 17, 2013 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bob R.

    To chrissy: Which news service is the one you are quoting?

    January 17, 2013 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  11. Portland tony

    The newsfolks have gotta write something, each agency trying to out "scoop" the other. I have no horse in this race...I can wait 12 hours to find out what is actually going on!

    January 17, 2013 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. JOSH P.

    Kill all the Western thieves one by one.

    January 17, 2013 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      your very very sick. We are the ones you cry to when your in trouble. Remember that! Its a fact Jack!

      January 17, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. the prophet

    This is just a political stunt from the CIA

    January 17, 2013 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  14. BYRD

    Skeptik

    This whole hostage story has been bizarely treated since the begining. It has not been the lead story anywhere, we have no proven statements from any named US official or our government, just "US sources say". Its possible that the Obama administration is trying to keep it quiet in order to negotiate or plan a rescue mission. But otherwise it seems a little like the Tail wagging the dog. Any other American hostage story in the past has been shouted from the rooftops and made the lead story on all news outlets.
    ------------------------------------------------
    wow...really??I pray for the return of those Americans and please stop shouting conspiracy theories and nonsence

    January 17, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tonya

      I think Skeptik has a right to his opinion just the same as you. We don't always agree but that is his right and no one should tell him to shut up. Things like this have always happened and will continue to happen in the future. Figure it out people......hatred is alive and thriiving

      January 17, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sally

      obama wants to hide it just like benghazi....plus he doesnt want to upset his muslim buddies...

      January 17, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Where's the rest?

    My phone is telling me that the Americans escaped. What is this story?

    January 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
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