Hostage Irishman believed to be unharmed in Algeria kidnapping16/01/2013 - 16:50:29
A married 36-year-old Irishman is believed to be unharmed after he was caught up in a terrorist attack on an oil facility in Algeria. He is still a hostage of the militant Islamist group that carried out the attack.
Sources were unable to confirm local reports that one British person had died in the incident, at a BP oilfield near the border with Libya. There were unconfirmed reports that a number of other hostages had been injured.
Heavily armed gunmen in vehicles are reported to have stormed the energy site in In Amenas, in the east of the African country, at around 2am, taking a group of up to 20 international workers hostage in a dawn raid thought to be in retaliation for France’s intervention in neighbouring Mali.
It is understood at least some of the captive workers were being kept in their own living quarters at the compound and were being allowed access to telephone and email.
The natural gas complex is a joint venture of BP, Norway’s Statoil and the Algerian Sonatrach company.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron was unable to confirm reports from Algeria’s official news agency APS, attributed to provincial authorities, that a Briton was among two people killed in the attack, with the other fatality understood to be French.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has called for the immediate release of the Irish hostage. The man has an Irish passport and lives in Northern Ireland.
“The Government stands ready to use all the resources available to us to ensure that our citizen is released as soon as possible,” he said.
“I would ask that the family be allowed privacy at this difficult time.”
The Algerian Interior Ministry said in a statement that three vehicles carrying heavily armed men attempted to ambush a bus carrying employees from the plant to the airport of In Amenas early this morning, but the attackers were driven off.
“After their failed attempt, the terrorist group headed to the complex’s living quarters and took a number of workers with foreign nationalities hostage,” said the statement.
“The forces of the People’s National Army and security services arrived at the scene and immediately took all necessary measures to make the area secure and seek a rapid resolution of the situation, which is being very closely followed by the national authorities.”
BP said in a statement that there was “an ongoing security incident” at the In Amenas gas field, about 1,300km from the capital Algiers. The facility was “attacked and occupied by a group of unidentified armed people” at about 5am UK time, said the company.
BP said: “Contact with the site is extremely difficult, but we understand that armed individuals are still occupying the In Amenas operations site.
“Our absolute priority is the safety and security of our staff. The site is normally manned by staff and contractors from the joint venture.
“We do not yet have confirmed information on the status of personnel at the site but believe some are being held by the occupiers.
“We are attempting to get confirmed information at the moment as to whether there have been any injuries to personnel at the site.
“We do not have confirmed information on the identity or intention of the people occupying the site.”
BP said it had activated its emergency response system and was contacting relatives of its people on the site.
The attack happened as EU foreign ministers were preparing to meet tomorrow in Brussels to discuss plans to send a 400-strong military training mission to Mali.
Europe Minister David Lidington said that Britain could make a “small contribution” to the mission but stressed that it would not be involved in combat operations.
“The EU training mission is an entirely distinct initiative from the French-led military response,” he told a Commons committee on Europe, adding that it would terminate after 15 months.
“It remains a clearly bound and time-limited project. It is not ill-defined or prone to mission creep. The training mission is not mandated to take part in combat.”
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