ALGIERS - Foreign governments and news outlets were working Monday to verify the number of hostages killed during a bloody four-day Islamist terrorist seige of a gas treatment plant in southeastern Algeria.
The Algerian government, which has been criticized by some for both for its aggressive response to the terror assault and for the spotty information on casualties, officially cites 23 hostages and 32 terrorists dead.
But two days after the seige ended, the numbers are still foggy, reports the BBC. By most independent news media accounts, the death count among hostages -- including both Algerians and foreigners -- has passed 50, and is expected to rise further.
Local news reports state 25 bodies were found on Sunday, thought to be executed hostages. Algerian officials are expected to further update the press later Monday. Foreign governments and embassies have confirmed dead and missing from Japan, France, the Philippines, Malaysia, U.K., U.S., Colombia, Norway.
The brain of the operation, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has now suddenly risen on the list of the world’s Most Wanted terrorists. Both U.S. and U.K. security officials have indicated that they will devote particular attention to hunt him down, including the possible use of drone attacks or special forces dispatch in friendly African states to widen the range of his counter-terrorism policy on the continent, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
Belmokhtar claiming responsiblity for the attack (Al-Jazeera)
According to reports, from the moment the initial blitz occurred last Wednesday morning, members of the terrorist group were only interested in targetting the foreigners. The Sydney Morning Herald published a statement by an Algerian survivor who witnessed a glimpse of the assailants’ unwavering resolution as they were trying to get everyone to come out of hiding: “He said they ordered the British man to yell, “They’re not going to kill you. They’re looking for the Americans.” A few minutes later, they blew him away.”
While every country with citizens involved in the event is waiting for confirmation on the fate of their nationals, the BP site should be back up and running later this week. Minister of Energy Youcef Yousfi stated that “Workers have begun returning to the site …. We will strengthen security,” reports Sky news.
The attack may have repercussions on the upcoming investments in this region’s energy business and therefore lead to inflation, according to an analysis from France 24.