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. Disanitnodicos

    Don't worry, guys. This was caused by a movie. We'll just arrest the guy who made the movie, and everything will be fine.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • brian in dc

      Jane Fonda, Sean Penn, and Matt Damon are probably producing one right now, have to protect the boy king.

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

      @brian

      Don't you have to go back to work at Fox?

      January 17, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • ewjones24

      Reports I've seen from other news organizations are reporting 35 hostages have been killed.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. southernwonder

    it is time to conquer the whole islamic world and purge it of its inherent criminality. time to christinize saudi arabia.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Are you starting a crusade?

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

      Because Christians never kill each other, right?

      January 17, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • saurov

      Amen to that.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. HepMeMasser

    The O man must be on holiday again. No word from our empty suit pompous prez.

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

      I demand our President get involved on every hostage situation anywhere in the world. Yah!

      January 17, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Smarty Peterson

    Pretty obvious what's going on here. The Algerians were still upset about their world cup loss and decided to kill all the hostages of soccer-superior nations in order to exact revenge. Sore losers.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Trey

    We need to place a world wide ban on all hostage taking so this doesn't happen. Such a shame that responsible people in society have to live with backwoods people who think hostage taking is oaky.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • regor60

      Yes we need to ban this behavior and, if that doesn't work, put them in time out !

      January 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jason

    Reading these comments depressed me that people could be so stupid until I remembered with joy that your boy lost the election and you all are just still whinging about it.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greenspam

      Exactly. I dance to the joy that Romney was defeated

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

      I'm not sure that I have ever "Whinging" about anything. If you are trying to impress me with your superior Liberal intellect, try spell check next time. It may not keep you from looking like a total idiot, but it should help.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Greenspam

    It's funny that people are demanding action from Obama.... people are taken hostage every day somewhere in the world. This happened in Algeria at a BP plant.. US has no authority to intervene without Algerian invitation to help. Put it in another way, let's say that bank robbers have taken hostage in a bank here in America, and there are some Mexican nationals there, would you agree to let Mexican police come over and tell us what to do?

    January 17, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greenspam

      If this had happened at the US Embassy, that would be different since US Embassy was part of sovereignty of USA... but at a BP plant, USA has NO authority to do anything.

      January 17, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • brian in dc

      What's funny is your blind loyalty to a person who gives a ratt's behind about you.

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

    The thing that surprises me is that this couldn't have happened to a nicer company. Why would anyone be angry at BP?

    January 17, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • crash14

      You have a valid statement against BP, however, there are Americans and other hostages being held by people who don't care very much for life. Could care less if BP lost every asset it owns, as long as those whose only crime is trying to support their families aren't harmed. Most people could care less about "simple" specifics like this, but I'm sure if they have a family back at home, THEY DO CARE!

      January 17, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Black Dynamite

    What's important is we find a reason to start another war.

    We need to keep this War Machine, this Military Industrial Complex, gassed up and ready to blow, baby!
    BD

    January 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

    101:1 The calamity!

    101:2 What is the calamity?

    101:3 And what will make thee know how terrible is the calamity?

    101:4 The day wherein men will be as scattered moths,

    101:5 And the mountains will be as carded wool.

    101:6 Then as for him whose measure (of good deeds) is heavy,

    101:7 He will live a pleasant life.

    101:8 And as for him whose measure (of good deeds) is light,

    101:9 The abyss is a mother to him.

    101:10 And what will make thee know what that is?

    101:11 A burning Fire.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. san

    replace the word 'help' with 'interfere'

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

    Liberals will keep blaming bush for fighting against terrorists that continue to attack us today.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Matt

    So BP can't protect its employees and the US Taxpayer once again funds the military to clean up the problem. How about BP pay for their own security for a change...along with the rest of the oil company filth.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jean

    First Benghazi, now Algeria and Mali is waiting in the wings, Libya is a mess of terrorist cells and Syria . . . well Syria is a disaster waiting to happen with al qaeda. Then there is Iran and their imminent nuclear weapons capability, Afghanistan and the Taliban just salivating for our departure. Iraq could realistically fall to the terrorist element at any time this year. What a cracking good job Obama has done. Al qaeda is decimated, we have no worries, there is no war on terror, everyone loves us because we have Obama now and America "leads from behind". This is what you get when you "lead" (more like cower) from behind. Good Lord when will the American voting public wake up to this appaling excuse for a President.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • brian in dc

      American Idol wasn't on that day so the 51% had to vote for someone.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Antronman

    Ahh...life. First some middle eastern terrorists go, "Hey US, you're helping our enemies so we're going to mount a terrorist attack on you in the 21st century." US, "You guys attacked us? We're sending our military in to get you!" Terrorists, "OK!!!" Now we're locked in combat in the middle east. These swine choose to strike at the american dream, we try to defend our allies who are pretty much responsible for supporting us, thanks to Bush and Obama. These pigs will never forgive us, we need to wipe them out and show them that the US has a lot more presence in the middle east than it seems.

    January 17, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
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