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. Hingir

    Ever since Fox closed it's comments section the discussion on every article here has gone in the gutter...it's like 2 year old kids pounding the sand with worthless rants and crying about Obama.

    January 17, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • mdbill

      amen, hit the nail on the head.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. AirCavalry

    Wonder when John McCain will chide the administration for not ..............

    Fill in the blank

    January 17, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. CavPilot

    Didn't the President say that Al Qaeda was on the run? Oh yeah, that was when the "liar N thief" was running for re-election.

    January 17, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • mdbill

      case in point. another faux news viewer posting on cnn.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      Who said it was Al Qaeda? The article states that it's Islamic militants, which doesn't automatically mean Al Qaeda. And nobody including the president has said that Al Qaeda is gone.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • sly

      Fool – EVERY Arab has over 500,000 reasons to want to kill Americans.

      I cannot believe there is any American on this blog that is surprised.

      Simply put: We earned this one! Thank you Mr. Bush.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Brad

    This is the latest news on the hostage crisis in Algeria:
    •Algerian security forces have launched a military operation to rescue 41 foreign nationals and dozens of Algerians being held hostage at a gas facility in Algeria.
    •According to the Algerian state news agency, four foreign nationals have been freed. The Irish Foreign Ministry has confirmed an Irish national is safe.
    •The Mauritanian news agency API has quoted Islamist militants as saying 35 foreign hostages were killed in the Algerian army operation.
    •The Algerian state news agency says 600 Algerian workers at the In Amenas facility have been rescued.
    •French President François Hollande says the Algerian hostage crisis is unfolding in "terrible conditions".
    •US President Barack Obama is being regularly briefed on the hostage situation, according to a White House spokesperson.
    •UK Prime Minister David Cameron says Britain was not given prior notice of the operation and was “extremely concerned” about the “very grave and serious situation”.

    •French national held hostage tells FRANCE 24 by telephone that hostage takers were well-armed and have forced some hostages to wear belts strapped with explosives

    January 17, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Antronman

    In the next two decades when we never stop electing democrats all of a sudden, every single terrorist controlled or influenced country will be nuclear. Then our government will be like, "Oh!" Get the hostages out, then send those blood-suckers to kingdom come.

    January 17, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boo

      Really? since you seem to be such a war mongerer, when are you enlisting?

      January 17, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Steve Heck

    SEND THE U.S NAVY SEALS!!!!

    January 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • patsy

      yup. i would not want to make myself the target of american special ops. might as well cover myself in seal blood and thrash around in the water off south africa.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ben Gazzy

    By executive order- terrorists may no longer have guns

    January 17, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. DevilDog

    Here is a clue for our Commander in Chief. I dont care if its current CIC or later. Some day we are going to stand up to these people. When stuff like this happens,,,, a phone call needs to be made to the leader of such organization,,,, it should sound something like this,,,,, We have just launched from one of our many Air Craft Carriers that has more people on one than many of your cities, a helo that will be coming to pick up our Americans,,,,, Right behind that helo is a B1 Boomber that will drop bombs on your camps, homes, and more importantly your way of life,,,,,Right behind that is the Marine Corps and Army along with every other asset we have, and it will continue till we have them back unharmed,,,,,, Once we have them,,, we will pull back out and continue to live our lives while you kill each other..... One death of an American that is here helping you and it will be met with boombs till we have equally met what the life of our American is worth,,,,, we will pick that number......... The next sentence should read as this,,,,,,,, When can I expect to see my Americans,,,,,,,,

    January 17, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      People, pay attention to this: the above rant is exactly the kind of thinking that gets thousands of innocent people killed. All you have to do is look at American history to see how this type of reactionary mindset has actually caused more harm than good.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bill

    We should do a missile attacks on Alcada strongholds and take out thousands of them for every person of ours they kill. Mine as well get it over with.

    January 17, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • sly

      That's funny Bill – that's the same thing they think.

      It's just that they have good reason to kill Americans. You just want to kill for money. Sad.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. sly

    Boy, the things our Oil Barons will do for the almightly dollar.

    Those that hop into fires get burned.

    No real story here, just Corporate Business as usual.

    January 17, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      how about you grow a pair and remember that this country is/was the strongest nation on earth because we have the power to deal with these freaks by force.

      January 17, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ahmed

    Muslims again....they are involved in every bloody conflict in the world....

    January 17, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marxist president

      Lets ask mister obama to have them invited to the white house lawn and talk it over with some pork and beer while listening ot Metallica. I love that Metallica is in my auto correct.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • sly

      Every Arab, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, has about 500,000 good reasons to kill Americans.

      We earned this one baby. Stop crying and learn that what goes around comes around.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Petercha

      Are you insane, Sly?

      January 17, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jt_flyer

      Islamic extremists are the worst disease the world have ever known. Until the muslem community learned the concept of responsibly, and gets its house in order, this will never end. No negotiations must be allowed EVER or this will continue. Remember these people have the mentality of 8 year olds.

      January 17, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jt_flyer

      Don't waste your time commenting on sly the political zombie. He's officially brain dead.

      January 17, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      way to be a self hating spineless american. What do you contribute to this nation??? These people only understand force. Their goal is to kill "infidels" and thats us incase you didnt know that. It has nothing to do with what we have done to them. Its because we don't believe in islam or the koran there for we must die. You can apologize to them and have your head cut off. I will support the war against these terrorists.

      January 17, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Gspan

    So where are our heroes Obama and Hillary? Oh wait, let me guess...Obama has a fundraiser to attend to or something...

    January 17, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • lordnimrond

      Your continuing tears over Obama's re-election taste like beautiful rainbows to me...

      Please cry some more...

      January 17, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • d

      Wait...it's a bunch of hostages at a private company. Shouldn't that private company be able to handle it themselves? You know, since private companies are better at everything than the government.

      January 17, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bobbie Curtis

    SEAL team up!

    January 17, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ej

    This tuckus has a Hot Date with a US Drone coming Soon to a laptop near you ! lmfao !

    January 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Marxist president

    Send in Jay lenno!

    January 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
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