Many questions still remain about the disastrous Algerian hostage situation, including the biggest question of all: How did all those people die?
The entire episode has been fraught with confusion and misinformation, given that the refinery where the deadly hostage crisis took place is surrounded by hundreds of miles of desert in every direction. Even now, days after it unfolded, Algerian forces say that five foreign workers are still missing. No one knows if they escaped, were killed, or are missing somewhere in the desert, where they are unlikely to survive the harsh conditions.
Some of the relatives of those who were killed have begun to speak up, and if history is any guide with disasters like this, it will take constant prodding and public shaming to get any answers from government officials. The brother and daughter of Victor Lovelady told KHOU today that they want to know how he was killed, because it is the only way they will find closure. Mike Lovelady says he was contacted by the FBI and told of his brother's death, but was given few details about the raid or how it played out, even after previously being told that Victor had survived the original assault. Lovelady had only been working at the plant for 10 days before it was attacked. (The State Department confirmed Monday that the two other Americans who died at the plant were Gordon Lee Rowan and Frederick Buttaccio, who had been identified earlier. There were seven American survivors.)
Robert Whiteside, a British citizen whose brother Kenneth was killed at the plant, said he was told that Kenneth and four others were executed after the Algerian military launched its first counterattack, though he also expressed a wish for more answers about what happened inside the plant and why the raid unfolded when it did. Algerian officials have insisted their actions saved lives, despite the fact that 37 foreign workers died at the plant. The survivors will certainly have more stories to tell, but even with their eyewitness testimony we may never get a clear picture of what exactly happened to victims or the terrorists.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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