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Three Americans among the dead in Algerian oil field standoff

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Three Americans have been killed in a deadly Algerian oil field standoff. The U.S. State Department has confirmed those numbers - all in all, 37 hostages and 29 insurgents are listed among the dead over a siege this past weekend.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal on Algerian television gave details about the siege. Algerian forces put a forceful end to the situation, and at least five foreign workers remain unaccounted for.

Nine Japanese have been killed in the fracas, the highest toll among the non-Algerians working there. That figure was confirmed by a Japanese government source.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland identified the three Americans killed as Victor Lynn Lovelady, Gordon Lee Rowan and Frederick Buttaccio, who had been named earlier.

"We are also aware of seven U.S. citizens who survived the attack," Nuland said. "Due to privacy considerations, we have no further information to provide.

"We will continue to work closely with the Government of Algeria to gain a fuller understanding of the terrorist attack of last week and how we can work together moving forward to combat such threats in the future," Nuland said.

Longtime Islamist insurgent Mokhtar Belmokhtar claimed responsibility for the attack, which he said was on behalf of al-Qaida.

"We in al-Qaida announce this blessed operation," he said in a video, according to Sahara Media, a regional Web site. According to Belmokhtar, 40 attackers participated in the raid, roughly matching the government's figures for fighters killed and captured.

Insurgents came out of the desert last week and seized the In Anema plant and residential barracks nearby. About 800 people, including some 700 Algerians and 100 foreigners had managed to escape after militants stormed.

Algerian troops launched their first raids on the site on Thursday. The standoff continued until Saturday after government forces captured or killed the remaining militants.

The attackers tried to blow up the gas facility on Friday night by planting explosives in a gas pipe and trying to detonate it. The plant produces about 10 percent of Algeria's gas exports.

Militants demanded an end to the French air strikes against Islamist fighters in neighboring Mali that had begun earlier. U.S. and European officials, however, seriously doubted such a complex raid could have been organized quickly enough to have been conceived as a direct response to the French military intervention.

Salell said that a Canadian was one of the coordinators of the attack. Ottawa said it was investigating reports that Canadian nationals were involved.

The Algerian army opened fire on Thursday, saying fighters were trying to escape with their prisoners. Survivors said Algerian forces blasted several trucks in a convoy carrying both hostages and their captors.

The nation Algeria, still visibly scarred by the civil war with Islamist insurgents in the 1990s which claimed 200,000 lives, insisted from the start of the crisis there would be no negotiation in the face of terrorism.

The nation of France especially needs close cooperation from Algeria to crush Islamist rebels in northern Mali.

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