Islamists attack gas field in Algeria: 9 foreigners taken hostage
The attack was carried out by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb - the same outfit that France is battling in nearby Mali. One American is apparently among those kidnapped.
Islamist militants attacked a gas production field in southern Algeria on Wednesday, kidnapping at least nine foreigners and killing two people including a French national during a dawn raid, local and company officials said.
The raid, claimed by an al Qaeda affiliate, came after Islamists had vowed to retaliate for France's military intervention in Mali, where its forces have been in action against al Qaeda-linked militants since last week.
The attack also raised fears that the French action could prompt further Islamist revenge attacks on Western targets in Africa, where al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb operates across borders in the Sahara desert, and in Europe.
The al Qaeda group said it had carried out Wednesday's raid on the In Amenas facility in Algeria, Mauritania's ANI news agency reported.
The Algerian interior ministry said: "A terrorist group, heavily armed and using three vehicles, launched an attack this Wednesday at 5 am against a Sonatrach base in Tigantourine, near In Amenas, about 100 km (60 miles) from the Algerian and Libyan border."
The gas field is operated by a joint venture including BP, Norwegian oil firm Statoil and Algerian state company Sonatrach.
A French national was killed in the attack, a local source said, but it was unclear if the victim was one of those kidnapped.
Algeria's official APS news agency said that one security guard had been killed and seven people were injured including two foreigners.
Five Japanese nationals working for the Japanese engineering firm JCG Corp were kidnapped as well as a French national, local officials said. An Irishman was also seized, the Irish government said, while a diplomatic source said an American had been kidnapped.
Also kidnapped was a Norwegian gas worker, the newspaper Bergens Tidende said, quoting the man's wife.
"I received a phone call from my husband this morning and he said he was kidnapped," the woman said. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry could not confirm the report.
AQIM is trying to dominate west Africa by carving out a caliphate in northern Mali. From there, they can strike at Niger - a significant source of uranium - and Nigeria, an oil producer with one of the largest economies in Africa. They aren't much threat to the government of Algeria, which is a large country with a decent military, but striking at big projects like the gas field and taking foreign workers hostage will give western companies pause when considering investing in that country.
The French have begun ground operations and hopefully, will make quick work of the Islamists. The longer they are there, the more vulnerable their citizens in that part of the world are to terror attacks. Expect more of the same over the coming weeks as AQIM strikes back.