Analysis

Terrorist Attack on Algerian Gas Plant Pre-Planned
This October 8, 2012 satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe shows the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria which is jointly operated by BP, Norwegian firm Statoil, and Algeria's Sonatrach. The plant was seized by Islamist terrorists on January 16. Algeria launched a military operation to free the hostages that reportedly is still ongoing. (AP Photo/DigitalGlobe)
January 18, 2013
| Security
| Middle East and North Africa
Summary
SITUATION REPORT
1700 ET UPDATE
 
The terrorist attack and taking of hostages on January 16 at a gas production facility in Algeria appears to have been planned several weeks in advance by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb  in anticipation of a French intervention in Mali. The outcome of an Algerian operation to free the hostages is still unclear as are the number of hostages and hostage takers who were killed. Recent press reports indicate that the Algerian operation may still be ongoing. Meanwhile, progress has been made against Islamist rebels in Mali, with Malian troops retaking a key town in the center of the country.
The outcome of the Algerian operation against Islamist terrorists who seized control of the gas facility, located near the town of In Amenas and close to the Algeria-Libya border, is still unclear. There are numerous contradictory press reports on the number of casualties and the number of hostages taken.
 
Some wire services are reporting that 12 Algerians and foreigners were killed during Algerian military efforts to retake the gas plant. At least one American reportedly has been killed. Algerian officials are claiming their military freed 100 out of 132 foreigners at the plant. 
 
Algerian forces continue to surround the gas plant and reportedly are negotiating with the remaining militants. The Algerian assault on the plant reportedly killed the leader of the attackers, Abou El Baraa. 
 
Earlier today, leaders of the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group that took over the plant said they wanted to trade the American hostages it was holding for two Islamist terrorists from U.S. prisons, according to a Mauritanian news service. The terrorists asked for the release of Egyptian Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and Pakistani Aafia Siddiqui. 
 
74-year-old Abdel-Rahman, also known as the "Blind Sheikh," is serving a life sentence in North Carolina and was the mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.
 
Siddiqui, a 40-year-old scientist, was sentenced in 2010 to 86 years in prison for assault with intent to murder for shooting at two U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan during her detention in 2008.
 
The terrorist group responsible for seizing the gas plant said it planned to release a video explaining its demands today.

There may have been 660 hostages taken, most of them Algerian gas workers who were released by the militants. Several press outlets are claiming that 18 of 30 of the terrorists were killed by the Algerian assault on the facility. 

An American military plane landed near the facility last night to evacuate an unknown number of Americans. One press report said that 14 Japanese and eight Norwegian hostages taken at the plant are unaccounted for. The Daily Mail reported today that 12 British citizens at the plant have been killed.
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