In an effort to conclude the hostage crisis at the Tigantourine gas facility near In Amenas, Algeria, special forces from the Algerian government have begun a second offensive against the Masked Brigade, the terrorists led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar. Al-Jazeera reported that the renewed rescue effort was launched as the Algerian state media reported that more than 650 hostages were free, but 30 foreigners were still unaccounted for. The Algerian Press Service (APS) reported that the count of foreign hostages prior to the first raid was 132, which conflicted greatly with initial reports of 41. The terrorists threatened to kill the gas workers if forces moved against them, yet reports made to the Agence Nouakchott d’Information (ANI), indicated that they still held hostages after the initial raid by the Algerian government. Two of the hostages, claimed to be American, have been offered as a swap for U.S. held terrorists: Egyptian Omar Abdel-Rahman, the mastermind behind the 911 attacks also known as the "blind sheikh", and Aafia Siddiqui from Pakistan.
After the first raid, which was conducted yesterday by Algerian special forces, 30 hostages and 11 of the terrorists were reported to have been killed, with over 650 workers having been freed or escaped. Many reports regarding the volatile situation have been conflicting, with very few confirmed identities of those rescued. Fox news reported that two Americans were able to escape, while five others managed to avoid being captured when the Masked Brigade took control of the gas facility. The fate of dozens of foreign nationals, which included workers from several countries including Japan and France, was still unknown.
The motivation behind the hostage taking by the Masked Brigade, also known as the Undersigned in Blood Battalion, was stated to be the French military involvement in northern Mali, which is where the group originated from. The Algerian government, however, rebuked any demands and responded by sending the People’s National Army, or ANP, with no assistance or consultation from foreign governments.
"No negotiation, no blackmail and no respite," declared the Algerian Communication Minister Mohammed Said during a Canal Algerie TV news report on Thursday. "They will not shake Algeria’s determination and we must remain vigilant." Said indicated that time was a critical factor in deciding to launch the assault.
Now, with the second raid fully under way, it becomes unclear whether or not the remaining hostages will survive. Reports of hostages being forced to wear explosive devices, and the terrorists resolve appear to have dampened many people’s hope of a favorable outcome.