7 foreigners dead in final Algeria push

2013-01-19 16:05
Road sign near the In Amenas gas field, jointly operated by British oil giant BP, Norway's Statoil and state-run Algerian energy firm Sonatrach, in eastern Algeria near the Libyan border. (Kjetil Alsvik, AFP/ STATOIL)

Road sign near the In Amenas gas field, jointly operated by British oil giant BP, Norway's Statoil and state-run Algerian energy firm Sonatrach, in eastern Algeria near the Libyan border. (Kjetil Alsvik, AFP/ STATOIL)

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In Amenas - Seven foreign hostages and 11 Islamist gunmen were killed on Saturday, an Algerian security source said, when a Sahara desert stand-off ended in a bloodbath.

The heavily armed gunmen from a group known as "Signatories in Blood" had been holed up in the In Amenas gas complex since they took up to 41 foreign worker hostage in a dawn assault on Wednesday.

"The [army] assault took place mid-morning. Eleven terrorists lost their lives along with the foreign hostages," the security source told AFP.

"We think they were killed in retaliation" for the army attack, the source said.

The gunmen, cited by Mauritania's ANI news agency, said on Saturday they were still holding "seven foreign hostages", denying claims of more.

"Signatories in Blood," led by Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a former senior al-Qaeda commander in north Africa, were demanding an end to French intervention against Islamists in neighbouring Mali, ANI reported earlier.

Belmokhtar also wanted to exchanging American hostages for the blind Egyptian sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman and Pakistani Aafia Siddiqui, jailed in the United States on charges of terrorist links.

But state department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said "the United States does not negotiate with terrorists".

The final death tolls, of both foreign and Algerian hostages and of gunmen, is not yet known.

Read more on:    algeria  |  north africa  |  algeria hostage crisis
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