Canadians among militants in Algerian hostage crisis

by | Jan 21, 2013 | News

The Tiguentourine gas plant facility outside of In Amenas, Algeria where at least 37 hostages were killed by militants. Image courtesy of Omar Lomaxe on Flickr.

The Tiguentourine gas plant facility outside of In Amenas, Algeria where at least 38 hostages were killed by militants. COURTESY OF OMAR LOMAXE ON FLICKR.

By Graeme McNaughton

At least two Canadians were among the militants involved in the hostage crisis at an Algerian gas plant over the weekend.

The CBC is reporting Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal of Algeria confirmed two of the Islamist fighters involved in the taking of the Tiguentourine gas plant facility outside of In Amenas by Algerian special forces were Canadian.

Sellal did not say whether the Canadians were among the 29 militants killed by Algerian forces, or among the three captured alive.

Chrystiane Roy, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs, told Humber News the department has been made aware of the fact at least one militant was a Canadian citizen, and are currently investigating.

“We are pursuing all appropriate channels to seek further information and are in close contact with Algerian authorities,” said Roy.

“We support the government of Algeria in its ongoing struggle against terrorist forces, and we will continue to work with the Algerians and other North African countries to stop the forces of extremism.”

The hostage crisis started Wednesday when the Tiguentourine facility was raided by a group of 40 militants, with many fleeing the facility and others being taken by the jihadist group, according to a report by Reuters.

At least 92 people, including hostages and militants, are reported to have died following the attack.

The CBC reported 25 of the bodies were so badly disfigured that it is uncertain whether they were militants or hostages.

Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a smuggler and leader of Mulathameen, a terrorist group with strong ties to Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack. Belmokhtar, nicknamed Mr. Marlboro for his past as a cigarette smuggler, was not present at the time of the attack.

CNN is reporting Algerian special forces raided the facility after learning the militants were planning to detonate explosives in the gas plant and flee to Mali with hostages in tow.

British Petroleum (BP), who owns the facility along with Sonatrach, Alergia’s state oil and gas corporation and Statoil, says the facility has been shut down since Wednesday when the militants stormed the plant.

“Given that the assault to regain control of the site ended only a day or so ago, we and our partners in the joint venture which operates the plant cannot yet say what the current status of the facilities are nor when they will be likely to return to operation,” said David Nicholas, a BP spokesperson, in an emailed statement to Humber News.

“Our focus is firmly on doing anything we can to support the effort to find four of our colleagues and the other people who remain missing after this terrible attack.”

In a separate press release, BP said non essential workers from the company’s remaining facilities in Algeria have been flown out of the country as a precautionary measure.