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More bodies found in Algerian oil field standoff

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 21st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Following a bloody four-day hostage siege in an Algerian oil field, security forces have uncovered many more dead bodies, some of which were badly burned, at a gas. Forces at the production complex deep in the Sahara says that for the first time, some of the accused kidnappers have been captured alive.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "There are a good 20 bodies," a senior Algerian official said this past weekend. "These must be identified." Once the remains are identified, the preliminary count of 23 dead hostages is expected to rise.

"I'm very afraid that the numbers are going to go up," the Algerian communications minister, Mohamed Sa´d Oubla´d, told television reporters.

The standoff between several dozen radical Islamists and Algerian security services ended on Saturday when the Algerians assaulted the kidnappers' last redoubt at the facility.

The victims have since been identified as being from the United States, Britain, France, Japan among other countries were killed after enduring captivity in which some were forced to wear explosives.

Algerian officials say that they also killed most of the remaining kidnappers, who they said were followers of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a warlord linked to al-Qaeda based in northern Mali.

A regional Web site has since reported that Belmokhtar had issued a video claiming responsibility for the attack.

Specifics on exactly who was held hostage, who escaped and who was killed remained patchy and contradictory this past weekend. One senior American official said that all of the American hostages who were seized at the remote gas field had died. One has been identified by the State department and there may be as many as nine others.

An American official speaking on the condition of anonymity said that some of the Americans survived. An official with BP, one of the companies operating the complex, identified one surviving American. The office of a Texas congressman said there was another. In addition, a senior Algerian official on Sunday declared that "seven Americans were liberated."

British Prime Minister David Cameron had revised his earlier estimates of fatalities. He now says that three British citizens were confirmed dead and three more were believed to have been killed, along with one resident of Britain who was not a citizen. The British government had earlier said that five Britons and one British resident had died or were unaccounted for.

The confusion over the count of victims reflected the chaotic and unclear circumstances at the gas field, near a remote town in southeastern Algeria called In Amenas. Senior Algerian officials far away in the capital of Algiers said they were unsure about some aspects of the events.

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