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. nasa1

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

    January 17, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Hopefully, Obama will issue an executive order banning AK-47's in Algeria.

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

    Why cant Obumer just keep the terrorists from getting guns?That should do it right?

    January 17, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • kylemaxwell671

      I often wonder if people like you realize how stupid you sound.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hingir

      @Kyle I doubt it.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • john

      Does he sound as stupid as "gun free zone"? I don't think so...
      The most stupid thing I saw yesterday were the dems who told us how bad it was that the NRA had Obama's kids in a commercial while at the same time Obama was using kids at his press conference...
      The commercial simply stated that all the kids in America should be as secure as Obbama's kids.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charlton Heston

      No, they have no actual idea about anything. Whatever the screaming liar on Fox says goes. This is another ignorant right wing fool without any education or ability to reason or analyze. They're like frightened children who can be sold anything, no matter obviously wrong. The dimwitted have always been the bedrock of conservatism, religion and war.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jaimie

    Send in Seal team 6. Let them take care of those Islamist idiots.

    January 17, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Ya beat me to is Jaimie

      January 17, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • obanga

      Seal team 6 were all killed in a helicopter.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mike

    Hope SEAL Team 6 is there taking care business.

    January 17, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. skoalbucs

    time for Seal-Team-6

    January 17, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Boy, you, me and Jaimie should get a job there.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Greedy humans

    An endless fight over natural resources.

    January 17, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Wilford Brimley

    Listen to these partisan hack clowns trying to make a hostage situation in which some Americans working for a private oil company got kidnapped working in a country with roaming bands of Islamic terrorists into something about the President. It was BP's responsibility to protect their workers. BP should have had tons of armed guards and better security but those things cost money. This is 100 percent on BP and the Algerian army/gov. for failing to protect their workers and citizens. Are some of you really so stupid that you believe the US government should have had troops protecting BP employees in Algeria??? And HOW could our President have possibly prevented this? lol Come on. When you choose to work in a hostile place bad things sometimes happen but that is the dangerous world we live in. I hope for all the hostages to be returned safely, no matter their country of birth. Some of you Rush/ Glenn Beck crowd need to use that thing inside your skull a bit more.

    January 17, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • john

      DO you think Bengazi was "something about the president"?

      January 17, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • DisplacedMic

      100% on BP and the Algerian government? You think? So no blame lies on the people that actually committed the crime itself?

      January 17, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Paganini

    @Brian in DC

    Why does Algerian militants taking BP employees hostage immediately bring out your hate for Obama? For God's sakes, man, we get it, you don't like the guy.

    One thing is for certain with you and your ilk at Fox. He get's all the blame for things that are wrong with the world, but never an ounce of credit for the positive. Here in America, the Dow is at an all-time high, 401Ks returned 13-17% just last quarter, no more Al-Quaida tapes threatening America, etc... but all the positives things happen in spite of him?

    You, just like Rush, Hannity, Beck, Coulter, are what we call a one-trick pony.

    January 17, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Veritas

      You said it so well. It is so tiresome to read the same regurgitated hate and nonsense from these simpleminded and brainwashed fools.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • john

      My guess is it is mostly becaue we still do not have the entire story from Bengazi.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. glcp

    This is one of those times where the hazard pay isn't worth it.

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

    The fact that anybody would put a working installation in chaotic evil raging islamic warlord swine land is a pretty strange idea to me.

    January 17, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sherry


    January 17, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mark

    You choose to live and work in crap country, deal with the consequences.

    January 17, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • gopnot

      You got a point

      January 17, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meki60

      or I guess not work and get welfare which Obama totally supports

      January 17, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • crash14

      You're right Mark. People who choose to leave the "lavish" job market in the US, only to go over to a wasteland to earn money for their families are idiots. Those people could have easily found employment in this "booming" job market we have. You have obviously never been placed in a position where necessity outweighs common sense. I'm sure these people are not loving every moment they've been there and not back with their families. I'm sure the ones who are married are thinking about their wives/kids glued to a TV set to see if "Mommy/Daddy" are going to come home alive or in a casket. That's the problem with this country. We are all "wrapped up" in our own lives, what only affects us, and what can I do to make myself happy. There are millions of other people who could use help, but we never see that. So, before "hatemongers" like you and everyone else on this post make sorry comments like you did, think about the people who are REALLY affected, and not your own selfish, sense of personal gratification at a dumb comment

      January 17, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meki60

      crash14: Great comment.

      January 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Hingir

    Hey look at that, this finally made headline news over Oprah on here!

    January 17, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. the_dude

    With Benghazi still fresh in our minds please be sure to keep Hillary away from any of the planning of rescue or security. She can keep being the token mouthpiece but please leave the design and plan to real professionals. Thanks!

    January 17, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. schremeg

    So I guess Emperor Obama has finally given the green light to talk about what is going on in West Africa. Wouldn't want anything like war in Mali and hostages being taken to interfere with eleminating the single biggest threat to an over reaching government such as an armed populous.

    January 17, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • AirCavalry

      Wow, you are well informed, It happened last night (early morning here) so you must have known about it or something. Here is an idea. If you think something needs to be done, fly to Algiers and go shoot someone or something

      January 17, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • mdbill

      miss faux news blog section much?

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