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According to different sources, 34 or 35 foreign hostages were killed in the Algerian attack against terrorists, four freed. A crisis cell has been set up in Bucharest. President Basescu knew about the kidnapping since Wednesday when he met the Foreign Minister. News wires speculate over the citizenship of the hostages who escaped the bloodshed.
Romanian authorities have formed a crisis cell after Algerian press agencies confirmed that several foreign citizens, including Romanians, were kidnapped in the In Amenas gas facility in Sahara. The Romanian Foreign Affairs Ministry (MAE) confirmed that Romania is among the countries whose citizens were kidnapped in Algeria and announced that the Algerian ambassador to Bucharest has been summoned in order to establish the best form of cooperation. The remote gas facility is run by British BP, Norwegian Statoil and Algerian state oil company Sonatrach.
“Concerning the events in Algeria, I would like to inform you that yesterday morning (Wednesday – editor’s note) the Romanian Embassy in Algiers informed MAE that armed clashes took place in Algeria’s eastern region, at the border with Libya, where an oil center operated by a multinational company is located.
According to the information offered by Algerian authorities and by the diplomatic missions accredited in Algiers, an unknown number of foreign citizens, including Romanian citizens, who were working for the company are held hostage by the attackers,” MAE Secretary General Robert Cazanciuc stated.
As a result, the Foreign Minister decided to set up a crisis cell at ministerial level, a cell that stays in permanent contact with competent Romanian authorities, the Romanian official added.
Cazanciuc pointed out that he cannot offer more details and asked the press to treat the subject “with consideration.”
At the same time, SRI spokesperson Sorin Sava confirmed yesterday the setting up of a crisis cell as a result of the kidnappings in Algeria, at the level of the relevant institutions that are part of the national system for the prevention and combating of terrorism. He added that such measures are taken in exceptional situations in which Romanian citizens are involved.
According to the presidential administration, Traian Basescu knew about the kidnapping since Wednesday when he met Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean. The President was informed on Wednesday about the events in Algeria, the Presidency staying in contact with the crisis cell set up at MAE level, and the Head of State was permanently kept up-to-date with the situation, Presidential spokesperson Bogdan Oprea said yesterday.
Militants in Algeria have demanded that the army withdraw from a gas field where they are holding the group of foreigners in order for negotiations to begin.
“We demand the Algerian army pull out from the area to allow negotiations,” said one of the kidnappers, identified as Abu al- Baraa, on Thursday. Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia stated that the authorities “will not answer the terrorists’ demands and refuse all negotiation.” At the same time, according to a communiqué
posted on the Mauritanian Alakhbar website, a website that regularly releases Islamist communiqués, an Islamist group took credit on Wednesday for the massive hostage-taking operation that targeted a natural gas centre in Algeria, its demands focusing especially on “stopping the aggression” in Mali.
According to Al Jazeera, there were “around 41” hostages from several countries including Norway, France, the United States, Britain, Romania, Colombia, Thailand, Philippines, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, and Germany.
WIRES: NO ROMANIANS AMONG THE SIX ESCAPEES
Unverified reports claimed yesterday afternoon that an Algerian helicopter attack has killed 35 hostages and 15 kidnappers in the gas plant standoff, British newspaper The Independent reported. According to Russia Today, the helicopter attack killed 34 hostages and 15 of their captors.
The Algerian army moved in after up to 50 captives, including dozens of foreigners, escaped.
One of the kidnappers at the Algerian gas installation told Mauritania’s ANI news agency about the government airstrikes and resulting causalities, though the information has not been independently confirmed until Nine O’Clock went to print last night. The agency says the remaining hostages are two Americans, three Belgians, one Japanese and one British citizen.
The leader of the militant group, Abu al-Baraa, was also reportedly killed in the government assault.
The military operation followed the escape of an unconfirmed number of hostages, with conflicting reports putting their numbers anywhere between 20 and 200. Locals said that 180 Algerian hostages alone had managed to flee the site. While some Algerian media outlets report that the military has completely regained control of site, others are denying that any sort of government operation is currently underway.
Details were blurry last night, but some reports claim 30-40 Algerians and 15-25 foreign nationals have escaped. Reports in the French press yesterday reported that Western hostages at the gas plant in Algeria were being forced to wear belts strapped with explosives. France 24 was, however, unable to verify whether the source of the claim was speaking under duress.
Algeria’s official APS news agency said earlier that thirty Algerian workers have managed to escape from the desert gas facility, where dozens of people are being held hostage by an al-Qa’ida-affiliated group. It did not say how they eluded their captors. The raid, and subsequent hostage-taking, would appear to have been motivated
by France’s military intervention in neighbouring Mali. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague accused the attackers of “cold-blooded murder” and announced the general public that the Cobra emergency system was set up Britain has provided two RAF C-17 transport aircraft to support the operation as well as offering to share ntelligence with Paris. Statoil said it had 20 employees in the facility. Norwegian newspaper Bergens Tidende reported that a 55-year-old Norwegian working on the site called his wife to say he was among the hostages. The Tokyo government said Japanese employees working for a company which supplies services to the site might also have been kidnapped.
The attack happened as EU foreign ministers were meeting in Brussels to discuss plans to send a 400-strong military training mission to Mali. Foreign Minister Corlatean attended the emergency meeting called after the hostage-taking crises emerged.