According to BBC world news, this afternoon, Algerian military forces raided the besieged BP gas facility without foreign intervention or assistance. The action resulted in several hostage and captor deaths. Of the 41 original foreign hostages present, the militants occupying the complex declared that only seven remained. Only two of the estimated seven Americans initially reported present were still in their custody. It is still unclear at this time whether or not the other five were killed or had escaped.
Around dawn local time, the Algerian militants stormed the gas complex in an apparent response to the French involvement in Mali. About 40 foreigners as well as several hundred native Algerians were taken hostage, resulting in international concern. The scope and coordination of the operation had caused many to speculate that the operation was not in response to the Mali situation, but a long-planned offensive that used France’s actions as an excuse. The militants, according to Algeria, are linked to Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a known terrorist with ties to al-Qaeda.
Without prior warning or recommendation, the Algerian government decided to act swiftly this morning and launched a unilateral strike against the facility. Foreign nations were only informed of the raid after the effect, and have been scrambling to find accurate information as to the results. What is known is that several hundered escaped or were set free as the government soldiers attacked, most of which were Algerian nationals. By the time information leaked out, anywhere from four to twenty of the foreigners had escaped. The discrepancy in numbers is a result of conflicting reports from both the Algerian government and the hostage takers.
According to the militants, only four of the foreign hostages escaped: one American, two Belgians, one Japanese, and one British National. They have claimed that 15 of their own had been killed in the operation, but 34 of the foreign hostages were among the losses. An unnamed Algerian security official, on the other hand, has indicated that about 20 of the foreigners had escaped, including Americans and Europeans.
“The operation is still going on,” Communications Minister Mohamed Said Belaid declared as of 1:30pm EST, and was only able to indicate that deaths and injuries have occurred. He expressed that they still do not have numbers to provide for casualties. The justification for the raid, in his words, was that the militants were international terrorists and therefore their government refused to negotiate with them.