Published — Thursday 17 January 2013
Last update 16 January 2013 11:33 pm
ALGIERS: Militants attacked a gas field in Algeria yesterday, claiming to have kidnapped up to 41 foreigners including seven Americans in a dawn raid, according to regional media reports.
The raid, claimed by an Al-Qaeda affiliate, came after militants 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 incident also raised fears that the French action could prompt further 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 yesterday's raid on the In Amenas facility in Algeria, Mauritania's ANI news agency reported.
The gas field, located close to the border with Libya, 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.
The foreigners were taken from In Amenas in the morning. Algerian troops had mounted an operation to rescue the hostages and had also surrounded the workers' camp at Tiguentourine, a local source said. A French source said that the raiders had come from Libya.
Algeria has allowed France to use its air space during its military intervention against Al-Qaeda-linked rebels in Mali, although officials have yet to make a link between yesterday's attack and the conflict in Algeria's southern neighbor.
ANI, which has regular direct contact with rebels, said that fighters under the command of Mokhtar Belmokhtar were holding the foreigners seized from the gas field.