The Algerian military appears to have ended the hostage crisis at the In Amenas facility in southeastern Algeria after its forces stormed the factory area earlier today. The residential area of the facility was taken yesterday. Abdul Rahman al Nigeri, the overall commander of the assault team from the al-Mua’qi’oon Biddam, or Those who Sign with Blood Brigade, is said to be in charge of the jihadists at the factory area. Reports on the number of hostages killed and freed are still up in the air. From BBC:
Algerian troops have ended a siege at a gas facility in the Sahara desert killing 11 Islamist militants after they killed seven hostages, Algerian state news agency APS has said.
The hostages were summarily killed as the troops tried to free them, it said.
Foreign workers were among the hostages, but the nationalities of the dead are not known.
The militants had been involved in a stand-off since Thursday after trying to occupy the remote site.
APS has previously said 12 Algerian and foreign workers have been killed since rescue efforts began.
On Friday, 573 Algerians and about 100 of 132 foreigners working at the plant were freed, Algerian officials said.
About 30 foreigners remain unaccounted for, including fewer than 10 from the UK.
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.
Algerian national oil and gas company Sonatrach said the army was now clearing mines planted by the militants.
Reuters and Al Jazeera provide more details on the outcome of the raid, identities and nationalities of some of the hostages killed and freed, etc. Given the Algerians’ unwillingness to share details with Western government and the press, it may take days for the details to become clear.
The fate of Abdul Rahman al Nigeri and other jihadists is not known. The facility is in the middle of the desert, but is just 10 miles from the Libyan border. The Algerian military no doubt attempted to surround the remote facility, but no cordon is airtight. It is unlikely that al Nigeri escaped, but if he and a few other fighters were to have skipped out, it would be a major propaganda coup.
Interestingly enough, Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s assault team from the Those who Sign with Blood Brigade seemed to be more interested in holding and ultimately killing hostages and requesting the release of the Blind Sheikh and Lady Al Qaeda than destroying the gas facility at In Amenas, which is estimated to produce about 10 percent of the country’s exports. The destruction of the facility would have seriously impacted Algeria’s economy and would have affected the global economy as well.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.