They Were Going to Blow Up the Algerian Oil Facility
After one final assault from the Algerian military, the standoff with militant Islamic attackers at a gas plant is finally over. The military moved in to end the conflict after the hostage takers set part of the facility on fire -- and the whole place was rigged to explode.
Update 7:57 p.m.: The President released this statement Saturday evening pledging support for Algeria and a commitment to "combat the scourge of terrorism in the region," whatever that my come to mean:
Today, the thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the families of all those who were killed and injured in the terrorist attack in Algeria. The blame for this tragedy rests with the terrorists who carried it out, and the United States condemns their actions in the strongest possible terms. We have been in constant contact with Algerian officials and stand ready to provide whatever assistance they need in the aftermath of this attack. We also will continue to work closely with all of our partners to combat the scourge of terrorism in the region, which has claimed too many innocent lives. This attack is another reminder of the threat posed by al Qaeda and other violent extremist groups in North Africa. In the coming days, we will remain in close touch with the Government of Algeria to gain a fuller understanding of what took place so that we can work together to prevent tragedies like this in the future.
Update 4:17 p.m.: Huh, despite what every other source told news outlets, the Algerian Interior Minister was quoted by state TV saying the final death count it as follows: 23 hostages and 32 militants were killed since the standoff began. He also claimed 107 foreign and 685 Algerian hostages were released over the course of the conflict.
Original post: After one final assault from the Algerian military, the standoff with militant Islamic attackers at a gas plant is finally over. The military moved in to end the conflict after the hostage takers set part of the facility on fire -- and the whole place was rigged to explode.
"In principle, it’s all over," an Algerian official told The New York Times. State news agencies reported a final assault from the Algerian military occurred Saturday morning because of a fire set by the attackers. The assault resulted in the death of 11 militants. According to state media, 32 militants were neutralized in the assault. Although, seven hostages were killed before the military could eliminate the threat completely. Their nationality remains unclear. The last Algerian army attempt to end the conflict ended with mixed results. This one ended the standoff completely.
Reuters reports sixteen hostages were freed on Saturday though, including two Americans, two Germans and one Portuguese. The nationalities of the other hostages isn't known yet. CNN reports a U.S. official said six Americans were freed or escaped, though it's unclear if that's just on Saturday or in total. At least one American was confirmed dead on Friday.
Cleanup crews are now casing the facility to make sure there are not any militants hiding in a crevice or closet, and sweeping the place for mines. "It is over now, the assault is over, and the military are inside the plant clearing it of mines," a source told Reuters. Mines? Mines. It seems the attackers strategically placed mines around the facility with the intention of eventually blowing the place sky high. No wonder the government moved in when they did. The amount of destruction, physically and economically, would have been catastrophic.
An exact, final death toll from the standoff that began Wednesday won't be known for some time. That's partly because of the inconsistent reports on the sheer number of hostages involved in the crisis, as the Associated Press notes. (According to CNN, state media reported 650 hostages were freed, which doesn't really mesh with what everyone else is reporting. That number is "provisional," though.) It will also be difficult because of the state of some of the bodies found in the plant. When crews entered the facility, they found 15 bodies totally burned inside. An Algerian official told the Times they wouldn't be able to identify the bodies for some time.