January 18th, 2013
03:30 PM ET

What we know - and don't - about Algeria hostage situation

Reporting on militants' seizure of workers at a natural-gas complex in eastern Algeria has been a special challenge, in part because outside journalists need a visa and accreditation before they can enter the country.

Access to live information from the Sahara Desert facility which British Prime Minister David Cameron this week noted was "one of the most remote places in the world" and about "18 hours by road from the capital, Algiers" is hard to come by, and conflicting accounts have emerged about the hostages and other aspects of the story.

Here is a look at what CNN has reported from:

WHAT OFFICIAL SOURCES SAY

Initial attack on Wednesday

The incident began when militants attacked workers who were traveling from In Amenas gas field to the In Amenas Airport early Wednesday, Algerian Interior Minister Diho Weld Qabilyeh told Algerian state television. Two people, an Algerian and a Briton, were killed in that attack, according to Algerian and British officials.

After security forces accompanying the workers returned fire, the militants went to the gas installation itself and took hostages, Qabilyeh told Algerian state television.

The remote gas field, about 37 miles west of the Libyan border and about 800 miles from the Algerian capital, Algiers, is run by "a joint venture of the Algerian national oil company Sonatrach, (Britain's) BP and (Norway's) Statoil," according to BP.

Initial hostage situation

The militants, equipped with AK-47 rifles, reportedly put explosives-laden vests on some of the hostages, a U.S. State Department official said.

While Algerian media reports indicated that militants initially had hundreds of hostages, including dozens of foreign workers, CNN doesn’t have from official sources clear information on the number and the nationalities of the people who have been held.

Officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, France, Malaysia, Japan and Ireland have said their nationals were among those involved.

Algerian military attacks; more casualties; some hostages escape

On Thursday, Algerian forces attacked the militants as they were preparing to move the hostages in vehicles, Algerian Communications Minister Mohamed Said told state television.

Thursday’s military operation left an unspecified number of people dead and injured, Said told state television.

One French citizen was killed and three others were saved in the operation to free hostages, the press office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris said Friday.

However, since Wednesday, some people have been freed or have escaped. Ireland’s government confirmed that one of its citizens, Stephen McFaul, escaped Thursday.

McFaul made a break for freedom after a vehicle he was in one of several targeted by Algerian fighters crashed, with his captors’ explosives still around his neck, his brother Brian McFaul told CNN from Belfast.

Before Thursday’s military raid, some hostages had disguised themselves to escape, according to Regis Amoux, chief executive of the CIS catering firm that had 150 workers who were freed.

The United States on Friday was evacuating between 10 and 20 people, a U.S. defense official told CNN. They will be taken to U.S. facilities in Europe, the official said, and the condition of those who are injured will be assessed.

BP said Friday that a "small number of BP employees" are still unaccounted for, while Statoil said the fate of eight of its employees at In Amenas was still uncertain. Nine other Statoil workers who were at the plant are safe, it said.

By Thursday night, some Americans had been freed and had spoken with relatives back home, while others remained unaccounted for, U.S. officials said.

A State Department official told CNN Wednesday that the abductors are demanding that members of their group who are being held prisoner elsewhere be released and sent to northern Mali. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Friday that the United States will not negotiate a prisoner exchange with the militants. CNN has not confirmed whether any Americans still were being held.

WHAT CNN HAS REPORTED, CITING OTHER NEWS MEDIA

Number of dead

Twelve hostages have been killed since the Algerian military launched a ground operation on Thursday, the official Algerian news agency said, quoting a security source.

State-run Algerian Radio cited an official source as saying that the major military raid that was launched Thursday was over, but that there was "ongoing activity at various locations" near the plant.

Number of hostages

Hundreds of people, including hundreds of Algerian workers and 132 foreign workers, were taken hostage Wednesday, according to the state-run Algerian Press Service. CNN has not independently confirmed the numbers.

By Friday, 650 hostages have been freed by the Algerian military, according to the state-run Algerian Press Service. Of the 132 foreign workers taken, 100 were released, the agency said. CNN has not independently confirmed the report.

The Al-Mulathameen Brigade initially said that 41 “Westerners, including seven Americans, (as well as) French, British and Japanese citizens have been taken hostage,” the Mauritanian News Agency and Sahara Media report.

Islamist militants claim responsibility

The Al-Mulathameen Brigade, which is associated with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, claims responsibility for the attack, according to media in the region.

A spokesman for Al-Mulathameen told media in the region that the militants claimed to have carried out the operation because Algeria allowed French forces to use its airspace in attacking Islamist militants in Mali. (However, a U.S. official told CNN that the operation’s sophistication suggests that it likely was planned well in advance of France’s Mali action.)

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

How many people were taken hostage?

How many people have been killed?

Is the attack directly related to the fighting in Mali, as the militants claim?

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Filed under: Algeria • Terrorism
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Mary

    @Hamsta, it's not Obama, he's just the face you complain to. And it goes much deeper than any old tax increase; that's been going on for years. We are slaves by our own "birth certificate " , collateral if you will to America's debt.

    January 20, 2013 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mary

    One example, I was watching Mrs. Obama's speech at my mother's house. At one point the she says to the. Youth, the greatest thing you can do is to serve our nation; furthuring the agenda to serve "man's army". Whom by the way will lose!

    January 20, 2013 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  3. Hamsta

    Time for a revolution!

    January 20, 2013 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mary

    Time accept the the truth. Truth is still truth whether you say it's truth or not. And the full truth of any issue is not always fully revealed, such as in the lance Armstrong interview with Oprah Winfrey. Really, does anyone expect her to give a deep truth seeking interview; Edward R Murrow, she's not!

    January 20, 2013 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  5. chrissy

    Hamsta if youre looking for a perfect person for prez well thats just not EVER gonna happen! There is no such thing as perfect in a mere man or woman walking on this earth!

    January 20, 2013 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Hamsta

      Ya, I agree that noone is perfect, but exactly how did this failure win his second election? I already knew he was a failure and a liar long before his "Chevy is alive and Bin Laden is dead." sales pitch. It is quite clear that Al Quaeda is very much alive and that Chevy my Toyota is dragging is beyond dead. We were much safer in every aspect with Bush in office. So how did this clown win a second election? Who will be to blame when your grandkids are paying the price? Definitely not me, I didn't support Obama the first time, and feel sorry for the fools that did because they have a lot to answer for.

      January 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hamsta

      Que Banasy and her elite team of ultra liberal attack dogs, before she even gets started I am going to cut her off and ask her what she is going to tell her grandkids when they ask " Why Grandma, did you support the man who destroyed Amwrica?".

      January 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Why are you bringing me into this, Hamsta?
      Do please leave me out of your diatribes.

      January 20, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. chrissy

    Lol seriously he HASNT failed and THATS what REALLY ticks you off the most isnt it? His progress hasnt been as fast as everyone would like but HE HASNT FAILED!!

    January 20, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hamsta

      His shovel ready jobs don't exist, the summer of recovery never happenned, the affordable care act, AKA Obamacare is an expensive monstrosity that punishes the working poor for not being able to afford health insurance, Chevy looks very much alive being dragged to the shop by a Toyota and Al Qaeda looks very dead committing it's second terror atack in six months before the Obama administration can answer a single questions from the first attack. Please tell me which of these I have listed can not be considered a failure, because that's all I see is failure from this sorry excuse for a president. I mean how are we going to pay for him doubling our debt when there are far less Americans with a job during his best day in office as compared to Bush's worst day. Gas prices have never dipped below $3.00 a gallon during his entire presidency whereas that was just a short spike during Bush's years. Obama's only success has been the massive expansion of welfare spending. So tell me how he he hasn't failed.

      January 20, 2013 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Hamsta

    Thank you for the compliment Mary, I am so used to being insulted by a bunch of foolish Obama lovers but I guess they have nothing to say now that daylight is starting to reveal what they did in the darkness. I have a lot to say, all tgat Bush bashing they did for four years will be thown back in their face because Bush is no longer relevant but Obama's failures will be relevant for decades to come.

    January 20, 2013 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. chrissy

    Maybe we just dont care to talk to the person jacking Hamsta!

    January 20, 2013 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy©

    Love how JR posts as one stolen person and compliments himself using another stolen person's name.
    Yawn.

    January 21, 2013 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  10. Mary

    Not me @ 8:18 obviously

    January 21, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
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