ANI (Mauritania), TSA, EL WATAN (Algeria), LE MONDE, L'EXPRESS (France), AP
ALGIERS – Confirmed information on the ground is still scant, but Algerian authorities do acknowledge that the assault against Islamist hostage takers was still ongoing Friday, more than 24 hours after it began at a gas treatment plant 1600 kilometers south of the capital.
Reports of casualties among the hostages range from a handful to up to 50, but few doubt that additional Westerners were killed when Algeria decided to storm the foreign-run gas facility less than a day after an Islamic radical group had launched an assault and taken hostage an estimated 41 Western employees and killing two people, including a British citizen.
Washington has sent a plane to bring back the American citizens waiting in the safe area. There are no reports yet on U.S. casualties. The AP is reporting that President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke on the phone to share their confusion. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the Obama administration was "seeking clarity from the government of Algeria."
Meanwhile, Japanese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Shunichi Suzuki said he was "deeply worried that the Algerian government engaged in military action in this hostage situation," reported Le Monde.
France's President Francois Hollande, whose decision to launch a military operation in neighboring Mali was cited by the terrorists, expressed confidence in the Algerian government, operating "under dramatic conditions." He added that what has happened the last two days in Algeria "justifies even more the decision taken to intervene in Mali."
Here are some preliminary details about how and why the Algerian military operation was launched:
The Algerian army used helicopters and ground forces in a frontal assault Thursday morning to free the remaining hostages inside the vast gas complex, which is jointly run by BP, as well as Norwegian, Japanese and Algerian energy companies.
Negotiations, it appears, never occurred.
The Tiguentourine site, from Google Earth.
Algerian newspapers and the Mauritanian agency ANI report that the leaders of the insurrection repeatedly claimed through these media that they had attached explosive belts to several people, and asked not to be harmed as they left the site in an attempt to cross the Libyan border.
The Algerian officers chose not to accept these conditions and sent helicopters to stop the several cars moving terrorists and their captives, reports El Watan. This operation is believed to be where rebel leaders say 34 hostages and as up to 15 terrorists were killed. The Algerian government has described these numbers as "unrealistic," reports the Express.
The gas complex, from Google Earth