Al Qaeda seizes BP Gas Field, Takes 41 Hostages, Including Seven Americans

The latest action by al Qaeda in northern Mali was against BP’s Ain Amenas gas field  in neighboring Algeria. The attack once again demonstrates that al Qaeda is not only alive and well, that they are developing franchises throughout the Middle East and boldly exhibiting their brazen ambitions to seize Western assets and put the lives of Westerners at high risk. Latest unconfirmed reports indicate that in this attack, as many as  41 people from as many as 10 countries were taken hostage, including seven Americans.

According to FoxNews, an Islamist group calling itself Katibat Moulathamine (Masked Brigade) contacted the Mauritanian News Agency and the Sahara Media and took credit for the raid which was carried out by one of its subsidiary organizations.

The British Daily Mail reports that the hostages were captured on bus near the town of Ain Amenas, Algeria, and are now being held in the gas plant, which the terrorists are threatening to blow up. An unnamed spokesman for the al Qaeda group claimed that the attack was “a reaction to Algeria’s flagrant interference in allowing French planes into its airspace to launch raids on northern Mali.”

He called Algeria’s attitude “a betrayal for the blood of Algerian martyrs slain by the French colonists.”

The growing boldness of the Islamist groups who are carrying out attacks against non-Muslims and Western interests should be of great concern to our government. Yet the administration seems to be oblivious to the implications of this emerging trend, which is putting Americans everywhere at greater risk than ever before. Going back only as far as September 11, 2012, the terrorist attack on our Benghazi mission in which our Ambassador and three other Americans were murdered, went largely ignored (except for damage control) and there was no retaliation.

It should be intuitively obvious (but apparently isn’t) that if we appear weak to the enemy (al Qaeda-linked terrorists, in this case), they will feel empowered. It is clear that, contrary to popular and comfortable belief, al Qaeda is growing stronger again, thriving on the knowledge that they can do whatever they want against America, since America will do nothing in response.

Our administration needs to begin paying closer attention to the reality around us  – it is only a matter of time before the same forces, that are now flexing their terrorist muscles around the world, will bring their attacks to our own cities, and begin wreaking the same kind of havoc here that they are already doing abroad.

——— Ilana Freedman, Editor

Al Qaeda militants from Mali attacked a gas field run by British oil giant BP in southern Algeria on Wednesday, killing one person and kidnapping one French and four Japanese staff, officials said. The attack appears to be the first reprisal against Western interests for a French-backed offensive against jihadists in neighboring Mali.Algerian state media said that one person had been killed and seven wounded, two of them foreigners, in the attack on the field at In Amenas, in the Sahara desert 1,300 kilometres (810 miles) southeast of Algiers.

A member of parliament for Algeria’s ruling National Liberation Front said that five staff members — one French national and four Japanese — had been taken hostage.

A Western diplomat told AFP that the Algerian army had launched an operation to try to free the hostages.

One of the attackers told AFP by telephone that they were Al Qaeda loyalists who had slipped into Algeria from northern Mali where France launched a major offensive against the jihadists on January 11 to prevent them from advancing on the capital Bamako.

“We are members of Al Qaeda and we came from northern Mali,” the militant told AFP by telephone.

“We belong to the Khaled Abul Abbas Brigade led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar,” he added.

Belmokhtar, renowned for the eyepatch he has worn since losing an eye, is one of the historic leaders of the jihadists’ north African franchise, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

BP gave few immediate details of the assault.

“We can confirm that there has been a security incident this morning at the In Amenas gas field in the eastern central region of Algeria,” the company said.

“The In Amenas field is operated by a joint venture of which BP is a member. We have no more confirmed details at this time.”

In Amenas is a wet-gas field, operated by a joint venture of BP/Statoil and Algerian state-owned oil firm Sonatrach.

Norway’s Statoil said it had been “notified of a serious situation involving an attack on the In Amenas gas production facility in Algeria.”

“Statoil’s emergency response organisation is now mobilised, and we are now working to get an overview of the situation. Our main focus is the safety of the employees at the facility,” the company said.

“Algerian authorities are handling the situation locally, while Norwegian and British authorities have also been informed of the incident.”

The firm said it had just under 20 employees at the facility, of whom more than 10 were Norwegian.

The British Foreign Office confirmed the attack but said it was still seeking details.

“There is a terrorist incident ongoing in the town of In Amenas at an oil installation near the Algerian border with Libya. The British embassy is aware of the incident and is liaising with local authorities,” a spokeswoman said.

“We are urgently seeking clarification from oil companies in the area as to whether they have personnel involved in the incident,” she added.

Algeria announced on Tuesday that it had closed its border with Mali, following the French offensive against Al-Qaeda in its southern neighbour but the 2,000 kilometre (1,200 mile) desert frontier is almost impossible to seal.

On Saturday, the Algerian foreign ministry expressed its “unequivocal support” for the transitional authorities in Mali.

On Sunday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Algeria had authorised the overflights of Rafale fighter jets based in France to take part in the operation in Mali.

Algeria suffered a devastating civil war with Islamist militants in the 1990s and officials had expressed fears of the possible blowback from any operation against Al-Qaeda in Mali.

Many of the fighters and weapons in Mali were displaced from Libya after the 2011 armed uprising that overthrew veteran dictator Muammer Gaddafi.

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Posted in Flashpoint, Middle East, US

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