As promised, militant Islamists associated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have retaliated for recent French led interventions in Mali. The radicals have taken control of a foreign-operated BP gas field in the eastern Algerian town of Amenas near the Libyan border and are holding several people hostage.
The number of hostages, which was initially reported to us by AlertsUSA at 11:16 this morning, was 41 with 7 of those being American. Subsequent reports from the New York Times and a few other publications vary somewhat on the exact number of people involved, but the initial number reported to us appears to be valid although reports are still preliminary. Confirmed reports of Japanese and Irish hostages have been validated by those respective officials.
The attack was led by a heavily armed group of militant terrorists who hijacked a bus carrying foreign workers resulting in 6 injuries and 2 deaths.
According to news agencies in Algeria, the militants have claimed responsibility for the attack and suggested that the “kidnappings” were a direct response to the Algerian government’s agreement to allow French military operations to use their airspace in strikes against Islamists in Mali.
The gas field is a joint venture operated by BP, Statoil and Sonatrach. The Japanese firm JGC also provides engineering services there. BP has since confirmed a security incident at the gas field and has set up an emergency “help line” for relatives. The BFO stated that “we can confirm that British nationals are caught up in this incident.”
Two days ago French commando’s went into Somalia under the cover of darkness on what appears to have been a “black hawk down” type operation in an attempt to free a French military operative who had been taken prisoner by the Al-Shabaab militia which is also a spin off of Al Qaeda. That encounter left 17 Islamic militants and 1 French soldier dead and afterwards al Qaeda promised a counterstrike.
In France, security has been reinforced at airports, train stations and other public places.