According to the mauritanian news agency ANI, the islamists are demanding an end to the french military mission in mali. A spokesman for the hostage-takers told the agency that the attack was punishment for algeria granting overflight rights to french military aircraft.
Governments in the U.S., norway, the U.K., ireland and japan confirmed that burghers from their countries are among the hostages. The heavily armed terrorists attacked the oil workers’ settlement early wednesday morning in three vehicles.
According to the algerian ministry of the interior, they first targeted a bus that was leaving for the airport with a group of foreigners. There were reportedly deaths and injuries. After that, he said, the islamists had entered the industrial complex and taken an "unspecified" number of hostages.
The amenas gas field, operated by mineral oil companies BP and statoil, among others, is located in eastern algeria near the border with libya, in the middle of the desert sahara. This evening, the al-qaeda in the islamic maghreb (AQMI) brigade claimed it was holding 41 foreigners as hostages, including seven U.S. Citizens, two frenchmen and two britons.
"Our blessed expedition is part of an international campaign to fight the jews and crusaders," declared AQMI. "We hold the governments of algeria and france and the hostages fully responsible for any delay in meeting our demands, the most important of which is the immediate cessation of the attack on our people in mali"."
Algeria’s interior minister dahou ould kablia strictly rejected negotiations with the terrorists. In the meantime, troops have been sent to the gas field, he said on local television this evening. According to algerian media, the terrorists have threatened to blow up the gas field if the army goes in to liberate the hostages. The AQMI commando calls itself "those who sign with blood".
France is currently fighting alongside government troops in mali against islamist rebels. Al-qaeda in the islamic maghreb (AQMI) is one of the three groups targeted by the french forces. It had previously threatened revenge for the french offensive.
The U.S. Department of defense strongly condemned the attack. Secretary hillary clinton has already spoken with algerian prime minister abdelmalek sellal, spokeswoman victoria nuland said in washington. The local workers, who were also detained initially, were released later in the day, according to local media.
The U.S. Would not comment on how many U.S. Citizens were in the hands of the terrorists so as not to endanger the lives of the hostages. Norway’s prime minister jens stoltenberg announced in oslo that 13 norwegians were among those abducted. The situation is "extremely unclear". Two norwegians were slightly injured during the storming. No one can say for sure how many people are in the hands of the terrorists.
The british ministry of the air confirmed a "continuing terrorist incident" at the amenas facility. British burgers also affected. The oil company BP announced that the field will be shut down on wednesday at 06.00 CET attacked and occupied by a group of armed men. Contact with them is extremely difficult. The gas field is operated jointly by the algerian state-owned company sonatrach, BP and statoil.