Amenas, Jan 20 (): The Algerian army carried out an intense final attack to end the four day stand-off in the Saharan desert by Islamic militants at a desert gas plant on Saturday, killing eleven al Qaeda-linked gunmen after they took the lives of seven more foreign hostages, Algerian state media (APS) reported. Algerian authorities have not yet confirmed if the operation was officially over.
The crisis took place for four days, till a fire broke in the gas plant at Ain Amenas site and the special forces of Algeria were forced to storm the plant in the middle of the Sahara desert.
Algerian forces started its action on January 17, just 24 hours after gunmen invaded the living quarters of the plant, trapping hundreds of Algerian employees and dozens of foreign workers.
APS news agency reported that nearly 650 hostages were held in the attack made on Wednesday at the In Amenas gas complex by a terrorist group. The kidnappers captained by Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a former Al-Qaeda commander in North Africa, killed two people on a bus, a Briton and an Algerian, before taking hundreds of workers hostage when they attacked the gas plant.
In a statement, the kidnappers have stated their deadly attack on In Amenas was in response to French military involvement against Islamists in Mali. Reports say the attackers included Egyptians, Libyans and at least one commander from Niger.
The gas facility is jointly operated by Britain’s BP, Norway’s Statoil, and Algerian state-owned Sonatrach. The terrorist group captured hundreds of workers including British, American, Norwegian and Japanese nationals. BBC reported, many hostages were periodically released, but about 30 foreign hostages were unaccounted for.
The gunmen appear to have been heavily armed and well equipped with explosives and rocket-propelled grenades. The military confiscated missiles, rocket launchers, machine guns and grenades attached to suicide belts.
Algeria’s interior ministry stated on Saturday that 685 Algerian hostages and 107 foreign hostages had survived, but did not give out a detailed account of those who died.