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. countertrans

    why is USA involved in mali?

    January 17, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Curt29

      "why is USA involved in mali?"

      The US has a military presence in almost 2/3 of the counties in the world. If something is going down militarily (especially if it involves our allies), there is a good chance we are involved.

      In this situation, I believe we lent technical support and air support was available.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • 2bnfl

      it is the oil companies – not so much the military. The military is around the world keeping these Radicals from coordinating attacks in the US to kill you.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      Because Al-Queda has taken over half of Mali and we are at war with them. Also France is our Ally and they are fighting by our side in Afghanistan because the fight against radical islamists and terrorists world wide are the responsability of all free nations. Fighting them in Mali keeps them busy from trying to fight us here in America

      January 17, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ireuel

    The whole Libya thing has come home to roost.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • 2bnfl

      thanks Reverend Wright!

      January 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. joel

    Mr money bags: Hey Joel can I interest you in a job at a refinery wedged in between Algeria, Tunsania, Libya on roaming warlord parkway?

    Me: NOOOOPE

    January 17, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. rad666

    BP employees? Sounds like something Britain should deal with, not America.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Smarty Peterson

      The whole reason the militants took the hostages is because the oil facility in Algeria was leaking toxic oil into their water supply. They had no choice but to take innocents hostage, they were actually forced to, in order to suck their blood like vampires and quench their thirst.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      considering half the company is owned by American share holders or companies and they employee a lot of Americans...I think it's an American matter also;

      January 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. joel

    Mr money bags: did I mention youd be working for british petroleum? Does that change your mind? eh? eh?

    January 17, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. brian in dc

    Romney mentioned the up and coming conflict in Mali during the 3rd debate and was mocked about it. It is such a shame that we clearly had a guy who is head and shoulders above the current amateur in office yet we failed to elect him. Have fun US with a decade of stagnant (at best) to negative growth, more debt, and more deficits. smh

    January 17, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • fbysea

      Oh, THAT Mitt Romney!! For a moment, I wasn't sure which one you were refering to.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      brian in dc – this is Algeria we are talking about – does all Repubs have problems with geography?

      January 17, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Petercha

      Stereotype much, Tom? I am a Republican and I was certified to TEACH geography.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • stupidrepublicansanddemocrats

      The public fights with each other over who is a better person for president while electing each time a candidate worse than the previous one. Without failing even once for the last 20 years.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. joel

    I guess mike rowe from dirty jobs was filming a truck commercial thank god

    January 17, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Jason

    We should pass a low making it illegal to take hostages. Then we wouldn't have to worry about this mess.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Keith

      derp derp derp

      January 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Petercha

    If Islam is the religion of peace, then I am Donald Duck.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hot Carl

      Smarty, can I do it anyway, just for general purpose?

      January 17, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Smarty Peterson

      Absolutely. Time/place?

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

      We'll need tracie for the "cleanup", if you get my meaning.
      Tracie, where are you?

      January 17, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Smarty Peterson

    The United States staged WW2 to cover up an alien invasion.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hot Carl

      Pfft, I've been saying that for years.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Hot Carl

    They dead. All dead.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. David

    Why don't we just lay waste to all of Africa AND the Middle East? they are nothing but a pain in our sas, and cost americans dollars and lives.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brad

      Ill Second that!

      January 17, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Johnna

    Again, just another friendly islamic peace loving mission. Let's do the world a favor and "BAN" all islamic religions from all counties of the world.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. brian in dc

    Romney mentioned the Mali situation in the 3rd debate and was mocked as knowing nothing. It is a shame that we clearly had a guy who was head and shoulders above the current clown yet we failed to elect him. have fun US with another 4 years of stagnant (at best) to negative economic growth, higher debt and deficits, and Mideast turmoil now ruled by Islamist terrorists rather than Mideast leaders that the US could work with and kept the terrorists, for the most part, in line. Any word from H. Clinton or Obama yet on the hostages, of course not. I'm guessing the terrorists got their guns from Libya, another Obama blunder.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Greenspam

      Today NRA said that if there were an armed guard at every exit, this would have been prevented.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • neednewgov

      Do you actually believe everything you just said? I find it sad that we face tragedies in our world and the first thing the GOPrs do is make it political. The world is a hateful place and you don't need to perpetuate it.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • brian in dc

      @Greenspam, What do you think Obama's proposal to "Make our schools safer with more school resource officers" means? Put cops in schools dummy.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • ScottIndependent

      Romney was on point with this issue, but you lost give it a rest.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • mussawel

      sorry brian but you are wrong. they are ALL clowns. bring back Bush.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • nasa1

      So........I'm wondering what our State Department (aka Hillary) is planning............

      January 17, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick P

      Let's see...BP....big oit.....no security....in Algeria....known for social/political turbulance.....had a terrorist type attack. yep, It all adds up and points right at Obama. Everything bad in this world points straight back to Obama according to you and your "kind". Thank you for confirming why I did not vote Republican in the last elections.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ray not in dc

      Brian in dc, because there are many hot spots in the world today, a mention of any one of these during the debates (where the election had already been settled anyways) would not have automatically make your preferred candidate great. A fair coin tossed many times can give you a 50% chance of being correct yet this will not make you or your preferred candidate great. Even a 12-hour analog clock is always correct twice a day and still this will never make you or your preferred candidate great. We have people in a terrible situation and you and your ilk can only think about politicizing this. I am sure that our public office holders (Hilary and everyone) and government officials are doing their best and owe you no immediate information. Besides, even if you were given immediate information, you will only likely screw things up as you will likely politicize and color everything just to put dirt on everyone outside yourself and your preferred candidate. The election had been settled. Grow up and exercise those things you learned when even in kindergarten. Let's not politicize this and give our government all the space they need to address this situation. You do not know all the details of what is going on and all that you do is bring the moral of everyone around you down. If you mean to be an entertainer instead, then my sincerest apologies for having taken you only too seriously.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Greenspam

    Today Republicans celebrated this as a chance to make Obama look weak if he screws up.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • brian in dc

      If? now that's funny.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      That's true of many situations, more proof that this divided two party system does not work. Works for them and lobbyists, but not for the American people.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
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