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Published On: Sat, Jan 19th, 2013

Algeria hostage situation, Hillary Clinton calls siege ‘act of terror’

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Washington(ANN) The four-day hostage standoff in Algeria reportedly came to a bloody end Saturday when the country’s special forces stormed the gas plant and killed 11 militants, but not before they

allegedly executed seven hostages, the state news agency reported.

U.S. officials have not confirmed to Fox News that any hostages were executed at the remote desert gas plant Saturday.

The report, quoting a security source, didn’t specify if any hostages or militants remained alive or give the nationalities of the dead.

 

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There was no official count of how many hostages were still being held by the final group of militants holed up in the gas refinery, but the militants themselves had reported they were still holding three Belgian, two Americans, a Japanese and a Briton.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for an improved counterterrorism relationship with Algeria and ‘all countries in the region’ after an American from Texas was identified as one of the hostages who died at a natural-gas site during a raid by the Algerian military.

The American was identified as Frederick Buttaccio. He reportedly suffered a heart attack. The general manager of the complex, Mark Cobb, also from Texas, was able to escape with members of his Algerian staff and is safe.

‘The perpetrators are the terrorists. They are the ones who have assaulted this facility, have taken hostage Algerians and others from around the world as they were going about their daily business.’

– Secretary Clinton

The desert siege began Wednesday when the militants attempted to hijack two buses at the plant, were repelled, and then seized the gas refinery. They said the attack was retaliation for France’s recent military intervention against Islamist rebels in neighboring Mali, but security experts argue it must have taken weeks of planning to hit the remote site.

Since then, Algeria’s government has kept a tight grip on information about the siege. Algerian officials have asked Western governments to stand on the sidelines during the military operations, and some U.S. officials were reportedly concerned about the previous raid.

Clinton, for her part, talked to reporters after the Obama administration confirmed that Americans were still being held hostage, even as some U.S. citizens were being flown out of the country for recovery in Europe. The Algerian state news agency reported that 12 hostages had been killed since Wednesday’s start of an Algerian rescue operation, and world leaders steadily increased their criticism of the North African country’s handling of the attack.

Clinton, however, defended Algeria’s action. “Let’s not forget: This is an act of terror,” she told reporters in Washington.

“The perpetrators are the terrorists. They are the ones who have assaulted this facility, have taken hostage Algerians and others from around the world as they were going about their daily businessl,” she said.

Earlier Friday, Algeria’s state news service reported that nearly 100 of the 132 foreign workers kidnapped by Islamic militants were free. That number of hostages at the remote desert facility was significantly higher than any previous report, but questions remained about the fate of more than 30 other foreign energy workers Saturday.

BP evacuated one American, along with other foreign workers, to Mallorca, Spain, and then to London. And an American official said a U.S. military C-130 flew a group of people, including some lightly wounded or injured, from Algiers to a U.S. facility in Europe on Friday. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and requested anonymity.

In London, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met with British Prime Minister David Cameron at No. 10 Downing St. to assess their governments’ understandings of the situation. At King’s College, Panetta said the U.S. is “working around the clock to ensure the safe return of our citizens” and that terrorists should be on notice they will find no sanctuary in Algeria or North Africa.

The White House said President Obama was being briefed Friday by his national security team. His top aides were in touch with Algerian officials as well as BP’s security office in London. BP jointly operates the natural gas plant.

U.S. officials have refused to confirm the number of Americans still captive or unaccounted for because they say that might compromise their safety. Local news reports indicate that there are still six hostages. Their nationalities are unknown.

Still, the U.S. flatly rejected an offer by the militants — led by a Mali-based Al Qaeda offshoot known as the Masked Brigade — to free two American hostages in exchange for the release of Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind sheikh convicted of plotting to blow up New York City landmarks and considered the spiritual leader of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist convicted of shooting at two U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Both are jailed in the United States.

“The United States does not negotiate with terrorists,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

The desert siege began Wednesday when the militants attempted to hijack two buses at the plant, were repelled, and then seized the gas refinery. They said the attack was retaliation for France’s recent military intervention against Islamist rebels in neighboring Mali, but security experts argue it must have taken weeks of planning to hit the remote site.

Clinton stressed that American officials would stay in close contact with their Algerian counterparts.

Speaking beside Japan’s new foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, Clinton said the crisis underscored the threat posed by extremists in North Africa, where Al-Qaeda-linked militants have seized control of half of Mali and plunged the country into civil war. She vowed to enhance U.S. work with Algeria and other countries in the region to combat terrorists even after the hostage situation ends.

Source: foxnews.

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