Algerian forces progress; Security Council urges care | News | DW | 19.01.2013
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Algerian forces progress; Security Council urges care

The UN Security Council has condemned the attack and hostage-taking at an Algerian gas complex by extremists. Algeria’s state news has reported that about 100 of 132 foreign hostages have been freed.

A statement agreed by the Council stresses bringing the al Qaeda-linked attackers and their backers to justice. Between seven and 10 hostages are still being held.

The Council expressed "condolences to the victims of these heinous acts and their families and to the people and governments of Algeria and those countries whose nationals have been affected."

The statement also added a phrase that said that countries must ensure that "measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law."

On Wednesday, extremists seeking to end France's Mali intervention seized the In Amenas compound - operated by British Petroleum, Norway's Statoil and Algeria's Sonatrach, among others - along with dozens of foreigners and hundreds of Algerians inside it. One British citizen was also killed when the gunmen seized the hostages on Wednesday.

One of the biggest international hostage crises in decades, the standoff has entered its fourth day and thrust Saharan militancy to the top of the global agenda.

Failed rescue

Hundreds of hostages escaped Thursday when a rescue operation left a dozen others dead. Algerian forces destroyed four trucks holding hostages, according to the family of a Northern Irish engineer who escaped from a fifth truck and survived.

Reports estimate that the operation killed 12 to 30 hostages and at least 18 extremists. According to the state news agency APS, in addition to the 100 foreigners, special forces rescued 573 Algerians.

Dozens of hostages remain unaccounted for, however: Norwegians, Japanese, Britons, Americans. Algeria hasn't confirmed any numbers.

Extra care

Countries have urged Algeria to prevent harm to the remaining hostages at In Amenas. The leaders of Britain, Japan and other countries have expressed frustration that the assault was ordered without consultation and officials have grumbled at the lack of information. Many countries also withheld details about their missing citizens to avoid releasing information that might aid the captors.

More than 20 foreigners remain captive or missing. Eight of the dead hostages were Algerian, with the nationalities of the rest of the dead still unclear.

Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the US State Department, confirmed on Friday the death of one American, but gave no further details.

By nightfall on Friday, the Algerian military was holding the vast residential barracks at the In Amenas gas processing plant, while gunmen were holed up in the industrial plant itself with an undisclosed number of hostages.

mkg/dr (AFP, Reuters, dpa)