ALGIERS – More than 50 people involved in the Algerian hostage crisis have now been reported dead. Yet, a lot of uncertainty remains; what were the nationalities and what were the reasons for the attack?
A group of Islamist militants attacked two busses with Algerian and International gas field workers on Wednesday, January 16th. Two people, a Briton and an Algerian, were killed in the takeover. The rest, 132 foreigners from 10 countries and 600 Algerians, were taken as hostage in the gas facility of Tigantourine.
The terrorist attack is said to be a consequence of French President François Hollande’s decision to bomb the Jihadists’ bases in northern Mali on January 11th.
Whilst most of the hostage was freed the day after the attack, it is still unclear what has happened to 30 foreign workers. These include ten Japanese and six Norwegian workers. At least 23 of the hostage and 32 terrorists were killed when Algerian forces stormed the Amenas gas plant on Saturday.
The Algerian forces were, according to Algerian press, forced to intervene as the kidnappers had begun shooting its hostages.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons that around 10 to 20 British workers remained missing. Mr Cameron has expressed earlier that he was “disappointed” that Algeria did not inform him about the rescue plan.
Whilst some experts say that this might be an act of revenge against the recent French invasion in Mali, others question this as they think an attack of this magnitude must have been planned months before.
A freed Algerian worker said that the capturers reassured him that they were not after him: “Don’t worry. We have not come for you. We have come to exterminate the persuaders.”
The terrorists claim that they are part of an organisation called Signed-in-Blood Battalion. They threatened to kill the foreigners if the French did not withdraw from Mali. This is unlikely to happen due to the fact that Malians appear to be happy with the presence French troops. Malians are also tired of having their lives disturbed by the Islamic rebels.
With their previous history in mind, the Algerian government’s decision to ‘act first and talk later’ was not so surprising. This tendency stems from the civil war between Islamists and the government in the 1990’s. Since then, the Algerian governments have failed to have a dialogue with armed groups.
The trend of escalating violence and unlawfulness is apparent within the rest of the Northern African region. The general level of security has decreased since the Arabic Spring, which has led to that it has become easier for terrorist and Islamic extremists to operate and finds weapons. It has been reported that the attackers in Algeria have received weapons from the Libyan rebels. It appears that national laws do not have much impact on these groups.
The nationalities of most of the victims have not yet been confirmed. So far a worker from the US has been confirmed dead. At a joint press conference with Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida, the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said that “it is an act of terror” and that Algerian government “was not to blame”.
Many western companies have strong economic interests in the country. However, the changed security situation might convince these companies that operating in Algeria might not be a good idea.
Image Courtesy: SKopp (Wiki Commons) Released under the Public Domain