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Algeria: Two Canadians among hostage takers, prime minister says

January 21, 2013|By Emily Alpert
  • Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal speaks during a news conference in Algiers on Monday about the attack on In Amenas gas complex,
Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal speaks during a news conference… (European Pressphoto Agency )

Two Canadians were among the militants who seized an Algerian gas field and held hundreds of workers hostage last week, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal told reporters on Monday, according to the Associated Press and the Canadian Press.

Algerian state media reported that the death toll has risen to 37 hostages, one of them an Algerian. The dead also include three Americans, an anonymous U.S. official told the Associated Press. Seven other Americans survived the attack. In total, roughly 800 workers were freed or escaped.

The news marked the latest revelations about the deadly crisis in remote eastern Algeria, which remained murky to the outside world as Algerian forces and Islamic extremists clashed late last week. Even after the ordeal ended Saturday, there were conflicting reports over the number of the dead and what occurred inside the In Amenas natural gas complex as the attack unfolded.

The Algerian prime minister told a news conference that the attack had been planned for two months and was carried out by a group that came from northern Mali. Sellal said 11 other militants were originally from Tunisia, three from Algeria, and others were from Egypt, Mali and elsewhere in the region, the official Algeria Press Service reported.

Sellal also said one of the attackers was a former driver at the natural gas complex, according to the Associated Press. The detail may shed new light on how an attack that baffled outside intelligence and security analysts was accomplished.

The number of hostages killed has raised questions about how Algeria handled the crisis, especially in light of reports that hostages were slain by gunfire from an Algerian military helicopter. Sellal said 29 of the hostage takers were “eliminated” and three of them captured, the Algeria Press Service reported.

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