January 16, 2013
US Officials Confirm Americans Among Those Held Hostage by Al Qaeda-Linked Group in Algeria
U.S. officials have confirmed that Americans are among the hostages held following an attack by al Qaeda-linked insurgents on a BP joint-venture natural gas field in Algeria.Prayers for their quick release, unharmed. NO payoff, released...period.
A senior intelligence official told ABC News that it currently appears three U.S. citizens are being held. However, the official cautioned that the numbers can change as can the overall number of hostages.
While the total number of hostages remains unclear, a number of reports have said as many as 41 hostages were being held. An official at BP told ABC News that there are approximately 700 local staff and contractors at the facility and 20 international BP staff and contractors at the In Amenas gas field in eastern central Libya.
In a briefing, State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland condemned the attacks and confirmed that U.S. citizens are among the hostages.
"In order to protect their safety," said Nuland, "I'm not going to get into numbers, I'm not going to get into names, I'm not going to get into any further details as we continue to work on this situation with Algerian authorities and also their employers."[...]
Al Qaeda linked militants called the Khaled Abu al-Abbas Brigade claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was retaliation for Algeria letting French jets use its airspace during its ongoing military operations in Mali. The news agency Agence France Presse (AFP) said it had received a telephone call from a person or persons who described themselves as hostage takers, and said, "We are members of al-Qaeda and we came from northern Mali. We belong to the Khaled Abul Abbas Brigade led by **Mokhtar Belmokhtar."
Last fall, Mokhtar Belmokhtar broke away from AQIM, the North African wing of al Qaeda, after other militants questioned his possible connection to weapons and drug smuggling, but remains affiliated with al Qaeda. He announced the formation of his new group in a video released on the web in December. [More...]