Algeria vows to fight Qaeda after 38 workers killed

Mon Jan 21, 2013 6:51pm EST
 

By Lamine Chikhi

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algeria's prime minister accused a Canadian of coordinating last week's raid on a desert gas plant and, praising the storming of the complex where 38 mostly foreign hostages were killed, he pledged to resist the rise of Islamists in the Sahara.

Algeria will never succumb to terrorism or allow al Qaeda to establish "Sahelistan", an Afghan-style power base in arid northwest Africa, Abdelmalek Sellal told a news conference in Algiers where he also said at least 37 foreign hostages died.

"There is clear political will," the prime minister said.

Claimed by an Algerian al Qaeda leader as a riposte to France's attack on his allies in neighboring Mali the previous week, the four-day siege drew global attention to Islamists in the Sahara and Sahel regions and brought promises of support to African governments from Western powers whose toppling of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi helped flood the region with weapons.

The attack on a valuable part of its vital energy industry raised questions about the security capacity of an establishment that took power from French colonists 50 years ago, held off a bloody Islamist insurgency in the 1990s and has avoided the democratic upheavals the Arab Spring brought to North Africa.

Sellal said a Canadian citizen whom he named only as Chedad, a surname found among Arabs in the region, was among 29 gunmen killed and added that he had "coordinated" the attack. Another three militants were taken alive and were in custody.

Among hostages confirmed dead by their own governments were three Americans, seven Japanese, six Filipinos and three Britons; others from Britain, Norway and elsewhere were listed as unaccounted for. Sellal said seven of the 37 foreign dead were unidentified, while a further five foreigners were missing.

Nearly 700 Algerians and 100 other foreigners survived.   Continued...

 
An Algerian soldier stands at a checkpoint near a road sign indicating 10 km (6 miles) to a gas installation in Tigantourine (sometimes spelled Tiguentourine), the site where Islamist militants have been holding foreigners hostage according to the Algerian interior ministry, in Amena January 19, 2013. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina