As the story in Algeria continues to unfold, it has become clear that initial reports greatly underestimated the situation. According to the latest news coming out of the area, the number of hostages seized was far greater than first reported, although the final numbers of dead and missing are still murky. The state-run APS news agency reported that more than 650 hostages have been freed as second rescue effort by Algerian forces has been launched to find 30 foreigners who are still missing. The report said 573 of those freed were Algerians, and another 100 were among the 132 foreign workers captured at the In Amenas facility.
Other accounts indicated that 650 hostages were freed, and more than 100 people remained captive. The attack was carried out by a large gang of highly organized al Qaeda terrorists, fighting under the name of The Masked Brigade. The confusion surrounding such a situation while it is still going on is understandable and the true numbers are likely to emerge soon.
Al Jazeera reported that the US has been very cautious s it tries to avoid any sign of US involvement in the rescue operations. According to the report, Washington has also been careful to not be giving the “impression of invading another Muslim-majority nation”, according to Al Jazeera.
In light of the horror of the situation, in which tens of hostages may have died and others may be still being held, the remarks of a British hostage who said “it was fun” (see below) were unspeakably callous.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a statement that was predictably lame and laden with State Department jargon but lacking in content and making no specific warning to the terrorists about any US action. (See below)
Departing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made a much stronger statement (also below), leading to the possibility that as skeptical as we were when he was appointed, we may well miss him if he is replaced by Chuck Hagel.
As we have written many times before, America’s lack of suitable response in situations in which our fellow Americans are in trouble abroad emboldens our enemies to strengthen their attacks.
Following is a time line put together by The Telegraph. It is, of course, incomplete, and, because the Telegraph is a British publication, it has a distinctly British point of view. It may, however, give our readers a better understanding about how the events following this attack has been unfolding. Events are listed in reverse chronoligical order.
——– Ilana Freedman, Editor
• US confirms that Americans are still being held
• Up to 12 Britons ‘still unaccounted for’
• Risk to Britons ‘significantly reduced’ says Cameron
• Freed British hostage: ‘It was very exciting’
• Richard Spencer: Algeria army attack ‘a show of strength’
20.00 Hillary Clinton has spoken out about the crisis.
From our Washington correspondent Jon Swaine:
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said in Washington last night that American officials were continuing to work to free those being held captive in Algeria.
“The United States extends our condolences to all the families who have lost loved ones in this brutal assault,” she said. “We remain deeply concerned about those who remain in danger.
“I spoke with the Algerian prime minister again this morning to get an update on this very difficult situation, and to underscore again that the utmost care must be taken to preserve innocent life.
“We are staying in close touch with our Algerian partners and working with effective nations around the world to end this crisis.”
19.01 AFP are quoting an agency report that claims one Briton is among the seven hostages still being held in Algeria.
The others, according to the report, are two Americans, three Belgians, and one Japanese.
There’s no other detail yet – more as we get it…
18.39 Another update from AP giving a death toll that is significantly lower than the 34 fatalities that were being reported at one point – but there’s no confirmation from Downing Street that this is an accurate total yet.
To recap: Algeria’s state news agency APS reports that nearly 100 of the 132 foreign workers taken hostage are now freed, but that some 30 are still unaccounted for. Up to 12 of those may be Britons. Meanwhile, the US has confirmed that an unknown number of Americans are still being held hostage.
Another news agency, ANI, says that up to seven foreigners are still being held hostage in Algeria tonight:
A source also told APS that 18 militants were killed along with the 12 Algerian and foreign hostages during the rescue bid – but, according to AFP, cautioned that the toll was merely “provisional”.
17.59 The State Department has confirmed that Americans are still being held in Algeria, a full day after the rescue attempt, according to AP.
Despite this, it looks like the US is standing firm: When asked about the proposal to swap US hostages for jailed terror leaders, Nuland replied: “The United States does not negotiate with terrorists”.
She refused to elaborate, according to AFP.
17.33 Victoria Nuland, the state department spokesman says the US hopes that the loss of life can be “minimized”.
State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland speaks to reporters today.
17.30 Hillary Clinton has spoken to the Algerian prime minister on the “fluid” hostage sitiation. Barack Obama is also receiving regular updates.
17.22 Reuters has another good account from an eyewitness. Azedine, 27, the radio operator at the plant, said he is still in shock after escaping. He saw the body of his French superviser and one of the militants putting on his badge.
“My supervisor was a great man; I learned a lot from him. He had been shot, but I did not see the execution. All I saw was his body when I ran with some colleagues to leave the base.
“The group entered into the base right after the attack against the bus. The power was cut off. They were talking in Arabic, but I did not understand what they were saying. They were not Algerians, I thought.
“I stayed in my office. I was concerned because they would have certainly seized my equipment and my Thuraya (satellite phone). I stayed silent a couple of hours waiting for the light of day. I saw the terrorists; some were clean, others were dirty, some with beards, others without, and among them a French national with sunglasses. He looked European.
Colleagues came to me, and we contacted the army people and then we managed to run away. We are very lucky, but the face of my French supervisor is still before my eyes.”
16.37 The Red Cross has expanded on its role in Algeria. In previous deployments psychosocial support teams have assisted Britons following fighting in Libya and events in Egypt in 2011, Haiti’s earthquake, flooding in Madeira and the transport chaos as a result of the volcanic ash cloud in 2010, and the terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008.
Simon Lewis, head of emergency planning, said:
“Our psychosocial support team will be providing emotional support and practical help to Britons as part of the FCO’s response to the Algerian hostage crisis.”
One of the other British hostages, a Scot, told Algerian TV (link BBC), that he was “very, very relieved to be out. Obviously we still don’t know really what’s happening back on site, so as much as we’re glad to be out, our thoughts are with colleagues who are still there at the moment but we’re very relieved.”
On the army he said they were “fantastic. Never been so relieved as when they came and got us off site, so we thank them very much for that.”
A fourth Brit, identified as Darren Matthews, says: “Very relieved to be going back to home to see friends and family… I feel safe at the moment, but I won’t feel 100 per cent happy until I’m back in the UK.”
16.09 The Foreign Office is reporting that nine consular staff and a six person Red Cross psychosocial support team have traveled to Algeria today.
15.50 US officials have reiterated the line that the situation is still “ongoing and sensitive” and the top priority is the safety of remaining hostages.
15.43 AFP, citing APS now says 100 foreign hostages are freed, with 30 still “missing”.
15.30 More on the Brits who have appeared on Algerian TV.
The survivors appear to have shrugged off their experiences as they prepared to fly home. On the Algerian army, one, in his 50s, said:
“I think they did a fantastic job. I was very impressed with the Algerian army.
“It was a very exciting episode. I feel sorry for anybody who has been hurt but, other than that, I enjoyed it.”
A second Brit, with a north-eastern accent, said:
“The gendarmes did a fantastic job. They kept us all nice and safe and fought off the bad guys. I never really felt in any danger, to be honest.”
It is unclear whether the two men were among a group of 30 Britons held hostage inside the In Amenas gas plant, or whether they had escaped on Wednesday during the initial attack by al-Qaeda terrorists on buses taking workers to and from the local airport.
Up to 12 Britons are still thought to be unaccounted for as the Algerian army continues trying to flush out the remaining kidnappers.
Some of the Britons may still be among 60 western hostages still being held, though David Cameron has been warned to expect “multiple” British fatalities.
15.27 One Algerian worker, going by the name of Belhadj, meanwhile has recounted his night of horror to Le Monde, saying he witnessed “explosions, gunfire, bombing and women shouting”, as well as an American falling off a roof, although he was not badly injured.
“It was a nightmare, a horrible situation, there were dead people…I’ve seen it on the television, on films in the cinema, but now I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I didn’t think it would happen to me. It was terrifying…
“The night was hard, we had nothing to eat, nothing to drink, everyone was crying and shouting. There were two Americans with us. All the communications with mobile phones had been cut.”
15.20 Four freed British hostages have appeared on Algerian state television. We’ll bring you more shortly.
15.01 More from negotiator’s demands:
Veteran Islamist fighter Belmokhtar has claimed responsibility for launching Wednesday’s attack.
ANI said Belmokhtar, in a video that would be distributed to the media, proposed proposed that “France and Algeria negotiate an end to the war being waged by France in Azawad” (northern Mali).
14.40 Meanwhile in Ireland, a spokesman for freed hostage Stephen McFaul said his mood was bright, adding that he was nervously excited about returning home to Northern Ireland, either today or tomorrow.
The spokesman said the Belfast man was on a flight specially chartered by his employer.
He will meet officials from the Foreign Office before returning to Belfast.
14.28 Youcef Yousfi, Algeria’s energy minister, has paid a visit to two unidentified injured Britons, along with four Filipinos, a Japanese national and two Algerians at the El Azhard clinic in Algiers after their transfer.
Youcef Yousfi, Algeria’s energy minister, has paid a visit to two unidentified injured Britons, along with four Filipinos, a Japanese national and two Algerians at the El Azhard clinic in Algiers after their transfer
“What’s extraordinary is that the employees of Sonatrach (who co-runs the gas plant with BP) managed to turn off the Tingentourine gas site in order to preserve the life of the people and the installations,” he told APS.
14.15 The kidnappers are apparently seeking the release of Aafia Siddiqui and Omar Abdel-Rahman, known as ‘The Blind Sheikh’.
A quick search online finds that Aafia Siddiqui is a US-educated Pakistani neuroscientist who was sentenced to 86 years in prison for firing at American soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan. [Editor's note: Saddiqui, a woman, who had been living in Cambridge, MA before going to Afghanisatn, was also connected, but never convicted, to the 9/11 plot.]
And Omar Abdel-Rahman is a blind Egyptian Muslim leader currently serving a life sentence in North Carolina. His conviction stems from the original World Trade Center bombing in 1993. [Editor's Note: In fact, he was the mastermind behind it, and was also connected to the murder of Rabbi Kahaneh in November 1990.]
14.00 Algerian special forces sources have told El Watan that they have captured one terrorist “alive”, without giving his nationality.
During an “in-depth interrogation”, he said the group comprised 32 individuals, and confimed that they were part of the battalion loyal to Mokhtar Benmokhtar, aka “the one-eyed”.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of up to 41 foreigners at the In Amenas gas field
13.55 While Mr Cameron said significantly fewer than 30 British people were still at risk, it is understood that the number is in the region of 10 or 12, says Tim Ross.
These are British people who are still missing, not confirmed as safe, actively feared to be at risk or known to have been killed.
Government officials are not releasing precise numbers for the entirely understandable reason that they do not want to jeopardise the ongoing operation.
The Associated Press meanwhile says some 60 “foreigners” are unaccounted.
13.49 Magdy Samaan, a journalist from the Middle East, is citing AlNahar, Algerian TV saying that the army have now started another liberation operation for the last gorup of hostages.
13.48 Reports via Twitter now that the US military plane mentioned earlier has now evacuated some involved in the hostage situation
13.42 A Mauritanian news site, according to the Associated Press, is now claiming that Algerian militants want to swape two American hostages for jailed terror figures.
13.38 The APS news service is reporting that nearly 650 hostages, including around 70 foreigners, have been freed by the Algerian army.
13.22 British terror negotiation experts have arrived in Algiers, says El Watan. It reports that the terrorists are holding a number of Western hostages and are carrying grenades. They have threatened to blow up the gas plant if Algerian forces attack. El Watan cites a security expert as saying the explosion would be felt for miles around around.
12.52 Dr Christina Hellmich, an expert on international relations at the University of Reading, rebutting Philip Hammond’s earlier statement, has this to say:
“The attack, tragic as it is, is not evidence that al-Qaeda is gaining a foothold on Europe’s southern border. Such a claim takes the incident outside of any meaningful context and ignores the presence that al-Qaeda, more specifically al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), has had in the region. There have been other cases of hostage takings in recent years. Maybe more importantly, AQIM stands out from other local groups for its focus on a local agenda, namely the overthrow of the Algerian government. Thus to speak of a new and urgent threat to Europe is an exaggeration that seems inappropriate.
12.23 Here’s where we stand with hostages so far and the nationalities:
- ALGERIA: Hundreds of Algerians worked at the gas plant, but the Algerian media say most were released.
- NORWAY: Eight Norwegian employees of Statoil remain unaccounted-for.
- UNITED STATES: Seven Americans were hostages, the militants said, but they claimed only two survived the Algerian strafing Thursday. A US official said that while some Americans escaped, other Americans remain either held or unaccounted for.
- BRITAIN: British Prime Minister David Cameron says 30 Britons were unaccounted for Thursday but that number is now “significantly reduced.” One Briton was confirmed killed in the initial attack on Wednesday.
- JAPAN: JGC Corp, which provides services at the complex, confirmed seven Japanese employees were safe and 10 others were unaccounted for. Ten non-Japanese employees are also alive, it said.
- PHILIPPINES: Algeria’s state news agency said two Filipino hostages were killed. Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said Friday at least one Filipino escaped with injuries during the military operation and he had no information about any fatalities.
- MALAYSIA: Two Malaysians were held, the government says.
- IRELAND: A 36-year-old Irish electrician was among the hostages but managed to escape.
- FRANCE: President Francois Hollande said there are French hostages but gave no exact number.
- ROMANIA: Romania’s Foreign Ministry says Romanians are among hostages.
12.00 The terrorists have reportedly been given their last chance, according to local sources citd by Algerie-Focus.
Quote The terrorists holed up in the gas treatment plant of In Amenas refuse to give up. Algerian forces are giving them one ‘last chance’
It adds that 18 terrorists have been killed.
11.55 France confirms that they too were not given advance warning of the Algerian raid on Thursday.
11.36 The spokesman of the Masked Brigade, which carried out the attack, told Mauritania’s ANI news agency that the group was ready about two months ago to carry out the operation.
“Because we knew seriously the hypocrisy of the Algerian regime and its intelligence, and that it would be France’s partners in war on Ozoad…
We call for Algerians to stay away from the headquarters of foreign companies. We will come out of no where you could think.”
11.34 Alain Juillet, France’s former intelligence chief says it will take a month to know what really happened.
“The Algerians have one principle: when they conduct an operation, they don’t talk about it.
“From experience, it takes minimum two weeks to a month before one starts getting an inkling about what really happened.
“For now, we only have snatches of information from hostages who have been speaking. Once the operation is over, journalists will begin piecing the the thing together, thanks notably to hostage accounts.”
11.32 Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, has meanwhile said that the militants would be run to ground.
“Terrorists should be on notice that they will find no sanctuary, no refuge, not in Algeria, not in North Africa, not anywhere.
“Those who would wantonly attack our country and our people will have no place to hide.”
11.31 Latest death toll via Reuters meanwhile puts the number of hostages at 30 and 11 captors.
11.28 Tim Ross says Ed Miliband was appropriately measured and grave in his remarks.
The fact that both Labour and Tory leaders are at pains to thank each other for their support underlines the scale of the crisis.
In terms of the facts we’ve learnt so far, it’s hugely significant that the PM chose to make public his disappointment that he wasn’t told before the Algerian raid began.
He disclosed that his offer to assist Algeria on Wednesday – which was rebuffed – included “technical and intelligence” help, as well as hostage negotiators.
We knew yesterday that Cameron had to ring the Algerian PM to ask him what was happening after the raid had already begun.
Cameron disclosed that he was told the Algerians “judged there was an immediate threat to the lives of the hostages” because the terrorists were preparing to flee.
The Prime Minister told the Commons that Britain would continue to stand by the Algerian government, who have paid “a heavy price” from terrorism over recent years.
But despite the diplomatic niceties, the PM’s frustration at being excluded from the decision is clear.
11.23 Cameron praises our ambassador to Algeria who has been “working round the clock” trying to get up to date information.
Despite his praise for the Ambassador, Cameron has admitted that Britain must improve its diplomatic relations with Algeria and other countries in the region.
This may come to be a story about the limits of British influence as much as Algerian intransigence or the savagery of terrorists, says Tim Ross. The PM told MPs that there should be “a real focus” on “how we can further relations” with Algeria and other countries in the region. He also said he wants to work on providing training and technical help to countries where kidnapping is a major risk.
He adds that hostage negotiation experts are on standby to help with the crisis.
11.21 Cameron says we have countries where we historically have good relations such as Nigeria, and others where we won’t
11.16 Tim Ross points out that Commons is sparsely attended for the PM’s statement as most will have travelled back to their constituencies last night.
Only 11 MPs on the Labour front bench.
The snow probably kept others away too.
Cameron is in sombre mood and everyone is listening in silence.
The PM is at his best handling crises, but this is an extraordinary statement for him to make, as the siege is still ongoing.
11.15 Malcolm Rifkind asks if there is a very powerful case for a stronger diplomatic, political and intelligence effort in the region, as regards to a threat to Britain from AQIM.
Cameron says it’s “profoundly wrong” that this is a problem for the region and not for us, and that is why it is right we are supporting the French operation in Mali.
11.13 He confirms that the terror threat in the Sahel comes from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. He says the threat is “growing” and is a “focus quite rightly for us and other countries.”
He says Britain needs to give priority to work better with countries in the region.
He says it is difficult to answer questions, particularly on numbers.
11.11 Cameron, responding to Miliband, says there is “no justification” for the situation.
In terms of support for the families affected, he says it is “absolutely vital” they get all the support. BP are doing “everything they can” to support. They are also looking to repatriate. 11 BP employees were taken out fo the country yesterday. Government is filling in gaps.
Britain is cooperating with Western oil companies in the region – All are on a state of high alert. They’ve also taken precautions to secure diplomatic missions in the region. Travel advice: continue to advise against all but essential travel to Algeria, Mali and Niger borders and Mauritania borders.
11.07 Ed Miliband of Labour says that the Government has his party’s “full support” as this situation continues.
11.05 He says that Algeria felt the terrorists were trying to flee and that is why they had to act.
Algeria is now looking at all possible routes are being examined.
He says number of Brits at risk was initially around 30 – but that has been significantly reduced. He doesn’t elaborate because it is still an ongoing operation.
A rapid response consular team is on its way. Cameron also says he has spoken to BP
11.02 Cameron says from information we do have that it was probably large, well-armed, well coordinated, pre-planned assault. Two were killed, including one Brit, immediately. It is still unclear about that amount of Brits involved.
11.00 Cameron up: he labels it a “brutal and savage” terror attack
10.57 David Cameron’s statement to the Commons coming up in a couple of minutes. Tim Ross is in the Commons and will be bringing you updates.
10.54 More accounts although this emerged yesterday to be fair – Brian McFaul, has described how his 36-year-old brother Stephen from Belfast made his escape after seeing four jeeps laden with hostages blown up by the Algerian army before him.
“He was made to sleep with a Semtex tied around his neck or strapped around his neck. He had duck tape over his mouth and his hands tied.
“Then we found out how he got free: (The terrorists) were moving five convoy loads out of the compound or to a different part of the compound and Steven was in one of the jeeps.
“There were five jeeps of them and the Algerian army had bombed the jeeps…a bomb flew overhead and out of the five jeeps four of them were wiped out.
“Obviously they lost their lives, but luckily for my brother he was in the jeep that crashed and was able to make a break for freedom with the Semtex round his neck.”
10.44 Some very strong language from the Japanese foreign ministry. A spokesman has told Julian Ryall:
“We had already asked the Algerian government to place the highest importance on the safety of the Japanese nationals but, in spite of that fact, actions that could put the hostages’ lives in danger were taken.”
That point was conveyed to the Algerian government by Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe and Foreign Minister [Fumio] Kishida.
10.23 A French national has told how he hid under his bed for 40 hours during the hostage-taking before being rescued by soldiers.
Alexandre Berceaux, an employee of CIS Catering at the desert gas complex, also told Europe 1 radio that the initial attack on the site was a surprise as the base was heavily guarded.
“I heard an enormous amount of gunfire. The alarm telling us to stay where we were was going off. I didn’t know if it was a drill or if it was real.
“Nobody expected this. The site was protected. There were soldiers in place.
“I stayed hidden for nearly 40 hours in my room. I was under the bed and I put boards everywhere just in case. I had a bit of food, a bit to drink, I didn’t know how long it would last.”
10.18 Henry Samuel, via Reuters, reports that there are 30 casulaties among the hostages, including one French national, and a dozen kidnappers have been killed, including a French national.
10.10 The al Qaeda-linked group that said it was behind the mass kidnapping has vowed to carry out more operations, Mauritania’s ANI news agency said, citing a spokesman.
The Mulathameen group warned Algerians to “stay away from the installations of foreign companies as we will strike where it is least expected,” ANI said.
10.05 Some Algeria hostage-takers are “still holed up” in the gas complex, security sources have told AFP.
10.00 Charles Pellegrini, the former head of France’s anti-terror unit, says it was clear the hostage taking would end in a blood bath, as the Algerians are from the ‘Russian school’. Speaking to Le Parisien, he said:
“Trained in Russia during the Soviet period, those in charge of the Algerian army never negotiate with terrorists and always resolve this type of situation Russian-style…
“In 1994, it took huge international pressure for them to allow a hijacked Air France plane to land on their soil. Also, one must understand that Belmokhtar (the kidnapper’s assumed leader) is their personal enemy. Sentenced to death in absentia, he is for the Algerians the symbol of the explosive years fighting Islamist groups. All that means the hostage taking could only end in a blood bath…
“As the site did not house many French, it appeared (to Algerian authorities) less exposed than others. And the commando no doubt said to themselves that by taking foreign expatriates hostage, notably Americans, the risk of an immediate and violent response by Algerian authorities was smaller. Belmokhtar’s men, who were in need of a high-profile strike to gain rank in the jihadi fight, clearly underestimated Algerian national pride.”
09.55 Cameron’s statement is happening at 11am as all the countries involved in the raid are currently being briefed by the Algerian government, Bruno Waterfield, our Brussels correspondent, tells me.
09.46 Meanwhile a former top Algerian intelligence official has told Le Figaro newspaper:
“It is completely clear that the terrorists will be totally eliminated, whatever the price to pay.
09.45 Reuters is reporting that a US plane in Algeria has arrived to pick up Americans after the crisis.
A local source told the news agency that plane landed at In Amenas airport, about 30 miles from the plant.
09.40 Two Scots are said to be among foreign hostages freed following the raid.
BBC Scotland has identified one Scottish worker now with the Algerian army as Mark Grant, from Grangemouth. It is unclear whether he was freed by his captors, rescued or managed to escape.
The Foreign Office is still not commenting on how many Britons may be involved in the crisis.
” It’s still very fluid. We don’t want to confirm numbers when the clarity isn’t there.”
Mark Grant from Grangemouth
09.35 The Norwegian government, much like Britain and Japan, is adding to pressure on the Algerian government, according to journalist Trond Sundnes.
Espen Barth Eide, the foreign minister, said “We will of course need a ful review of events in the aftermath of a serious incident. Jens Stoltenberg, the prime minister, is not happy with the information flow from Algeria.
09.30 David Cameron is due to make a statement to the Commons at 11am today about the crisis, according to the Speaker’s office.
09.24 Several Norwegian media are currently reporting on a Norwegian medical plane – a civilian airplane refitted as a hospital.
It was yesterday heading towards Algeria, but had to go down in Italy, due to the lack of landing permissions close to In Amenas. According to Norwegian MFA they have received a landing permission in Hassi Massoud – which is 450 miles away from In Ames. MFA state that they are trying to get a landing permission closer to the incident – so far without any response.
09.06 William Hague, who along with Philip Hammond, is in Australia, has reiterated David Cameron’s line that people should be prepared for more bad news.
“I again condemn utterly the wanton act of terrorism carried about against workers in Algeria. I’m very grateful for the sympathy and condolences that Senator Carr and others have extended to us. This remains a fluid and evolving situation and many details are still unclear but the responsibility for the tragic events of the last two days squarely rests with terrorists who chose to attack innocent workers murdering some and holding others hostage.
“Our priority remains at the moment to identify exactly what has happened to each British national caught up in this incident and indeed to help other countries determine what has happened to their nationals. We sent additional staff to Algeria, we’re in close touch with the Algerian authorities and with BP, we’re working to ensure that those who survive this ordeal are properly cared for and reunited with their loved ones and that the families of all those involved receive full and accurate information and support.”
08.55 David Cameron is due to convene a Cobra crisis meeting in five minutes. We’ll let you know more as and when it filters in.
08.37 Philip Hammond, the Defense Secretary, has been speaking in Australia.
“This terrible incident of terrorism has highlighted again the threat in north Africa and the Sahel from international terrorism.
“Working with our international partners we shall remain our resolve to see that the threat is countered and defeated and Al Qaeda denied a foothold on Europe’s southern border.
“We have sent additional staff to Algeria and are in close touch with the Algerian authorities and BP.
“We are working to ensure that those who survived this ordeal are properly cared for and reunited with their loved ones and that the families of all those involved receive full and accurate information and support.”
08.20 At least 22 foreign hostages remain unaccounted for. Two Japanese, two Britons and a French national were among at least seven foreigners killed, the source told Reuters. Eight dead hostages were Algerian. The nationalities of the rest, as well as of perhaps dozens more who escaped, were unclear. Some 600 local Algerian workers, less well guarded, survived.
Fourteen Japanese were among those still unaccounted for by the early hours of Friday, their Japanese employer said, while Norwegian state energy company Statoil, which runs the Tigantourine gas field with Britain’s BP and Algeria’s national oil company, said eight Norwegian employees were still missing.
08.15 There was jubilation for one family yesterday as father-of-two Stephen McFaul, 36, from west Belfast, made contact with his wife Angela to say he was safe and well.
The Irishman fled after the vehicle he had been travelling in crashed after coming under attack from Algerian forces. He was able to run off and make it to safety.
His 13-year-old son Dylan choked back tears as he declared he would give the electrician a “big hug” as soon as he sees him and never let him go overseas again.
“I am very happy, I just cannot wait for him to come home,” he said.
Mr McFaul’s mother Marie, his son Dylan, and his father Chris spoke of their relief that he was safe
07.58 Japan is about as angry as any other country involved in this raid. The foreign ministry has summoned the Algerian ambassador, demanding answers over the operation.
Julian Ryall, our Japanese correspondent, tells us that JGC Corp., the Japanese engineering firm that was involved in the operations of the In Amenas plant, has been able to confirm that three of its employees caught up in the raid were safe, but there is no news on the whereabouts of 14 other staff.
The Japanese government, like Britain, only learned that the Algerian authorities were attempting a military solution to the stand-off from foreign diplomats and media reports, despite explicit requests from Tokyo.
07.56 Two French workers “are back” safe from the crisis, according to Manuel Valls, the interior minsiter, adding that “very few” were working at the gas plant.
Meanwhile across the border in Mali, AFP reports that the Malian army has claimed “total control” of the town of Konna.
07.55 Mr Cameron was forced to cancel his long-awaited speech on Europe at the last minute to deal with the Algerian crisis. In the address, which he was hoping to give in Amsterdam this morning, Mr Cameron had planned to warn that Britain risked “drifting towards the exit” of the EU unless there was fundamental reform, says Robert Winnett, The Telegraph’s political editor.
07.50 David Cameron has been warned to expect “multiple” Britons to be among up to 34 gas workers killed in the West’s worst hostage crisis in a generation.
The Prime minister, who was not informed of the raid before it started, said that the country “should be prepared for the possibility of further bad news.”
07.48 Richard Spencer, our Middle East Correspondent, said last night that the seizure of the gas complex by the desert jihadis could not have been more embarrassing for the famously tough Algerian armed forces.
The country was supposed to have had the Islamists beaten, after a war which cost 100,000 lives in the 1990s civil war. Only last Saturday, the Algerian, Libyan and Tunisian prime ministers issued a joint pledge to enhance security on their borders.
Yet, over a territory without cover, the attackers managed to creep up on and surprise hundreds of local and foreign staff.
Algeria relies on its oil and gas reserves to maintain its economy, and relies on foreign companies to keep them pumping.
A determination to hit back hard and fast, irrespective of the consequences, may have been the result. Analysts say the army, known for brutality in the war but not for recklessness since, normally refrains from “all guns blazing” operations.
07.46 Sky Sources say that more than 10 Britons are still unaccounted for after the hostage crisis. What we know so far is that at least one Briton has been killed, along with five or more others, when Algerian helicopter gunships fired at “anything that moved” inside the compound at In Amenas. The BBC says up to 20 hostages may be unaccounted for.
07.45 GMT Good morning and welcome back to our live coverage of the Algerian hostage crisis, which, according to the Foreign Office, remains “ongoing”.
“The terrorist incident in Algeria remains ongoing. The Prime Minister spoke twice to his Algerian counterpart, prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal, on Thursday.”
“He chaired Cobra twice on Thursday, and will chair another meeting on Friday morning; Cobra will continue to meet as long as the crisis lasts.
“As the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have said, to the best of our knowledge on the information given to us by the Algerian government, one British national has sadly been killed.
“We are not in a position to give further information at this time. But the Prime Minister has advised we should be prepared for bad news.
“Our priority will remain the safety of British nationals and their co-workers. We cannot provide any details that might endanger their lives. But we are working round-the-clock to resolve this crisis.
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