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. polnick

    The odor of barbecued swine and liquor has been corrupting nostrils of the holy. Everywhere in Algiers and the Casbah there is that devilish temptation. It is no wonder that Islamic militants have gone on a Jihad.

    January 17, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Rob Lanken

    CNN, why are you covering up for Obama now?

    January 17, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Hogan's Goat

    "CNN, why are you covering up for Obama now?" That's insane. It's an oil refinery owned by BP in a foreign country. Obama is the president of the United States, not of Algeria. People who work in countries like that are taking their chances. How much of my tax money are you prepared to spend on this anyway?

    January 17, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. the prophet

    people the news reports what convenient under the US security laws, this is a stunt by the CIA

    January 17, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. the prophet

    Now at days one should ask you are the terrorist really!

    January 17, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. the prophet

    Nigerians are all criminals is the number 1 scam country in the world

    January 17, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. NRA troll

    See...if every BP gas plant employee carried an AR-15, this never would have happened. -NRA

    January 17, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. dreamer96

    Anyone that studies the book the Art of War knows changing your tactics is important, this new terrorist leader is said to be controlling this hostage event from hundreds of miles away in Mali...So what does that tell you?..They must have some secure communication system, and they are going to try to control the event.. the news is saying the terrorists are using bomb vests on the hostages...Maybe like the movie "Swordfish"...We have to adapt to their new methods, send in the super secret squad of US attack squirrels to find the hostages and remove the bomb vests....take out the terrorists...

    January 17, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Mary

    Sure, take your time Hilary. No big rush to worry about a few Americans in harm's way. Got to work on kissing Morsi's backside as a priority. Choosing your dress for the inaugural balls.

    January 17, 2013 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • dreamer96

      Mary

      Donald Rumsfeld had over 100,000 armed US troops in Iraq..and could not protect them all....what was the final number killed in Iraq, wonder in Iraq...how many US embassies were attacked under GWBush? Well there were 64 attacks on US embassies under GWBush's watch...

      January 17, 2013 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. dreamer96

    Ahh Hmmm

    Where was Dick Cheney when this hostage event started..Is anyone taping Dick Cheney's phone calls and other communications to the Middle East???

    January 17, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. ronvan

    WHY is it that some of you want the U.S.A to always be the FIRST ones in, yet, want our troops out of all these countries? These hostages are from several different countries and they have "special forces" units just like us!
    These people now being held hostage are working there not only because of their skills but for the money, just like the rich owners! If there is any blame to lay I would say it is with the owners, in that they failed to provide protection when they knew of the dangers! Let no terrorist survive this incident and then get the drones flying to take out the leaders no matter where they are!

    January 18, 2013 at 9:14 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Cindy

    Another sad story, and my prayers are with the families.

    January 22, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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