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30 foreign hostages still unaccounted for
BUCHAREST – PM Victor Ponta announced today (Saturday) that a Romanian has been killed by terrorists in Algeria, while four others have been freed and that they will be repatriated soon. Three Romanians have been handed over to the Romanian diplomatic authorities in Algeria, while another one is still in the care of the Algerian Army and will be handed over soon to Romanian diplomats.
The PM expressed his deepest regret at the death of the Romanian dead in the hostage-taking standoff and said his thoughts are with his family.
“I am deeply sorry and I promise the family of the victim my help and the government’s through this very difficult time”, Ponta told journalists at a joint press point with Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean. The Premier expressed his regrets for the death of the other hostages of different nationalities, during the three-day standoff in the remote gas facility in Sahara.
The PM said the authorities had to wait for the confirmation of the death of the Romanian and the fate of the other four from the Algerian counterparts before making the information public. “I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if the family of the victim would have learned from the press the terrible tragedy”, the PM said.
Ponta thanked to all the parties involved in the rescue of the Romanian hostages, the Algerian authorities for their co-operation, president Basescu and the agents within the Romanian and Foreign intelligence agencies who worked day and night together within the cell crisis set up on Thursdar, after the hostage crisis emerged. Corlatean also thanked the Algerian Foreign Minister and the Army for the help in the liberation of the Romanian nationals.
The PM invited the general public to stay vigilant, warning that what it’s going on in Mali, Algeria nowadays ‘can affect us all’, adding that it’s Romania’s duty to actively take part in the fight against terror.
The BBC reported minutes before the Ponta’s press point that about 30 foreign hostages remain unaccounted for, including fewer than 10 from the UK.
According to the Algerian news agency AP, eleven hostage-takers have been killed earlier (Saturday) as Algerian troops launched a final raid on a Sahara gas plant where foreign workers were being held captive. Seven hostages were summarily killed by their captors as the troops tried to free them, the agency said. The nationalities of the dead hostages are not known.
APS has previously said 12 Algerian and foreign workers have been killed since rescue efforts began.
The militants themselves said before the raid that they had been holding seven hostages.
Shortly before reports of the final assault emerged, the leader of the hostage-takers, Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri, said the government had to choose between negotiating with the kidnappers and leaving the hostages to die. He said the area had been booby-trapped and swore to blow up the complex if the Algerian army used force.
The In Amenas gas field is situated at Tigantourine, about 40km (25 miles) south-west of the town of In Amenas and 1,300km (800 miles) south-east of Algiers. The plant is jointly run by BP, Norway’s Statoil and Algeria’s state-owned oil company.
A statement from the kidnappers said the assault on the gas plant was launched in retaliation for French intervention against Islamist groups in neighbouring Mali.