Algeria's Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal holds a news
conference in Algiers at which he said 37 foreign workers
died in a hostage drama at an Algerian desert gas plant.
A total of 37 foreigners and an Algerian died at a desert
gas plant and five are still missing after a four-day
hostage-taking coordinated by a Canadian gunman, Algerian Prime
Minister Abdelmalek Sellal says.
Sellal also told a news conference that 29 Islamists had been
killed in the siege, which Algerian forces ended by storming
the plant on Saturday, and three were taken alive. Most of
the gunmen were from various states of north and west Africa.
With some bodies burned beyond recognition and Algerian
forces still combing the sprawling site, some details were
still unclear or at odds with figures from other governments.
The siege has shaken confidence in the security of Algeria's
vital energy industry and drawn attention to Islamist
militancy across the Sahara, where France has sent troops to
neighbouring Mali to fight rebels who have obtained weaponry
Of the 38 dead captives, out of a total workforce of some 800
at the In Amenas gas facility, seven were still unidentified
but assumed to be foreigners, Algerian premier Sellal said.
Citizens of nine countries died, he said, among them seven
Japanese, six Filipinos, two Romanians, an American, a
Frenchman and four Britons. Britain said three Britons were
dead and three plus a London-based Colombian were missing and
Norway said the fate of five of its citizens was unclear; in
addition to seven Japanese dead, Tokyo said three were
An Algerian security source had earlier told Reuters that
documents found on the bodies of two militants had identified
them as Canadians: "A Canadian was among the militants. He
was coordinating the attack," Sellal said, adding that the
raiders had threatened to blow up the gas installation.
That Canadian's name was given only as Chedad. Algerian
officials have also named other militants in recent days as
having leadership roles among the attackers. Veteran Islamist
Mokhtar Belmokhtar claimed responsibility on behalf of al
In Ottawa, Canada's foreign affairs department said it was
seeking information, but referred to the possible involvement
of only one Canadian.
The jihadists had planned the attack two months ago in
neighbouring Mali, Sellal added. During the siege, from which
he said they had hoped to take foreign hostages to Mali, the
kidnappers had demanded France end its military operation.
Sellal said that initially the raiders in Algeria had tried
to hijack a bus carrying foreign workers to a nearby airport
and take them hostage. "They started firing at the bus and
received a severe response from the soldiers guarding the
bus," he said. "They failed to achieve their objective, which
was to kidnap foreign workers from the bus."
He said special forces and army units were deployed against
the militants, who had planted explosives in the gas plant
with a view to blowing up the facility. Normally producing 10
percent of Algeria's natural gas, it was shut down during the
The government now aims to reopen it this week.
One group of militants had tried to escape in some vehicles,
each of which also was carrying three or four foreign
workers, some of whom had explosives attached to their
After what he called a "fierce response from the armed
forces", the raiders' vehicles crashed or exploded and one of
their leaders was among those killed.
LIBYAN NUMBER PLATES
Sellal said the jihadists who staged the attack last
Wednesday had crossed into the country from neighbouring
Libya, after arriving there from Islamist-held northern Mali
An Algerian newspaper said they had arrived in cars painted
in the colours of state energy company Sonatrach but
registered in Libya, a country awash with arms since Western
powers backed a revolt to bring down Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The raid has exposed the vulnerability of multinational-run
oil and gas installations in an important producing region
and pushed the growing threat from Islamist militant groups
in the Sahara to a prominent position in the West's security
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has ordered an
investigation into how security forces failed to prevent the
attack, the daily El Khabar said.
Algerian Tahar Ben Cheneb - leader of a group called the
Movement of Islamic Youth in the South who was killed on the
first day of the assault - had been based in Libya where he
married a local woman two months ago, it said.
Belmokhtar - a one-eyed jihadist who fought in Afghanistan
and Algeria's civil war of the 1990s when the secular
government fought Islamists - tied the desert attack to
France's intervention across the Sahara against Islamist
rebels in Mali.
"We in al Qaeda announce this blessed operation," he said in
a video, according to Sahara Media, a regional website. About
40 attackers participated in the raid, he said, roughly
matching the government's figures for fighters killed and
Belmokhtar demanded an end to French air strikes against
Islamist fighters in neighbouring Mali. These began five days
before the fighters swooped before dawn and seized a plant
that produces 10 percent of Algeria's natural gas exports.
U.S. and European officials doubt such a complex raid could
have been organised quickly enough to have been conceived as
a direct response to the French military intervention.
However, the French action could have triggered an operation
that had already been planned.
The group behind the raid, the Mulathameen Brigade,
threatened to carry out more such attacks if Western powers
did not end what it called an assault on Muslims in Mali,
according to the SITE service, which monitors militant
In a statement published by the Mauritania-based Nouakchott
News Agency, the hostage takers said they had offered talks
about freeing the captives, but the Algerian authorities had
been determined to use military force. Sellal blamed the
raiders for the collapse of negotiations.
The siege turned bloody on Thursday when the Algerian army
opened fire, saying fighters were trying to escape with their
prisoners. Survivors said Algerian forces blasted several
trucks in a convoy carrying both hostages and their captors.
Nearly 700 Algerian workers and more than 100 foreigners
escaped, mainly on Thursday when the fighters were driven
from the residential barracks. Some captors remained holed up
in the industrial complex until Saturday when they were
The bloodshed has strained Algeria's relations with its
Western allies, some of which have complained about being
left in the dark while the decision to storm the compound was
Nevertheless, Britain and France both defended the military
action by Algeria, the strongest military power in the Sahara
and an ally the West needs in combating the militants.
"This would have been a most demanding task for security
forces anywhere in the world and we should acknowledge the
resolve shown by the Algerians in undertaking it," British
Prime Minister David Cameron told parlia