Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal says 37 foreign hostages were killed in the al-Qaida terrorist attack that ended Sunday. Five foreign hostages were missing. Sellal spoke at a media conference Monday, Al Jazeera said.
"Militants who seized an Algerian gas plant before they were killed in a bloodbath received logistical aid from Islamists in Libya," a well-informed source told AFP on Tuesday.
The foreign hostages were said to have come from eight countries, including the US, and the 32 terrorists killed came from six countries: Tunisia, Egypt, Mali, Niger, Canada and Mauritania.
It was not clear who seven still unidentified bodies were. Reports differed on whether three or five terrorists were captured.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Mali, the French defense ministry said on its website that the cities of Diabali and Douentza had been recovered from the al-Qaida back insurgents there.
An estimated 80 people died in the four-day attack, including 11 Algerian hostages and an unannounced number of Algerian army soldiers.
Sellal said 25 hostages were found alive, and are still being identified. Some hostages escaped on their own, cutting their way through security fences. This may have contributed to the confusion.
Algerian officials had said there 132 foreign workers. The government had said they worked for BP, Statoil of Norway and Sonatrach of Algeria. BP and Statoil have evacuated all their employes in the North African nation.
Initially the terrorists tried to link their attack to Algeria’s decision to allow French warplanes to fly over its territory en route to attacks on al-Qaida terrorists in neighboring Mali. However, it soon became clear the attack had been launched from lawless Libya, barely 60 miles to the east, and was only nominally related to Mali fighting.
A spokesman for a group calling itself the Masked Brigade, Katibat Moulathamine, said it seized the hostages at dawn last Wednesday to protest the Mali attacks. The BBC said it was just as likely that this was an attempt win a ransom by Moktar Belmoktar, a one-eyed Algerian who split off from Al-Qaida, to raise money. He lost an eye fighting for al-Qaida in Algeria. They said he made $250 million in the past from kidnappings. He soldiers were called the “blood battalion” and he was known as the “Marlboro Man” for hijacking so many cigarette trucks.
It did not appear the leader was at the In Amenas site. He rarely pokes his face near assaults. His connection with al-Qaida has been on-again, off-again. Although some pundits claimed this opened a new front for al-Qaida, fighting had been going on there for more than five years. This brought the terrorists out into the open, and likely made it impossible for the Maghreb to remain a safe haven.
The geography, mostly flat desert including the Sahara, doesn’t offer the mountains that help the Taliban hide.
Anxious to fill air time, pundits declared that al-Qaida had opened a new front.
Former US Army Gen. Stanley Allen McChrystal disagreed, and defended the French incursion in Mali. He said al-Qaida had been operating in the area for years, becoming a threat to the region. He said France had little economic interest in Mali, but much more in surrounding nations. He used marketing terms in describing al-Qaida. McCrystal said it had become a franchise operation and was intent on “branding” the Maghreb. He said it was not the same people involved, but the spreading of an idea.