ALGIERS (Reuters) - Al Qaeda’s North Africa branch has claimed responsibility for Friday’s rocket-propelled grenade attack on an Algerian gas plant operated by Norway’s Statoil and BP as part of its “war on the Crusader interests everywhere”.
The attack caused no casualties or damage but forced the facility to be closed as a precaution, though state energy company Sonatrach said Algeria’s gas production had not been affected.
“This operation has destroyed your claims to have defeated ‘terrorism’ as you like to describe it,” the Islamist militant group said in a statement directed at the Algerian government and Western oil companies. “Even if your Western masters believed you were in control previously, how will you justify your position now?”
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has claimed several attacks across the region recently, including an assault on a resort in Ivory Coast on Sunday that killed 18 people it said was revenge for a French offensive against Islamist militants in the Sahel.
Algeria, emerging from its own 1990s war with Islamist fighters that killed 200,000, has become an important partner in the Western campaign against Islamist militancy. The OPEC nation is also a major gas supplier to Europe.
Attacks in the North African country are rarer since it ended its civil war, but al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and fighters allied with Islamic State are still active, mostly in the remote south and mountains east of Algiers.
Algeria’s oil and gas infrastructure is heavily protected by the army especially since the 2013 Islamist militant attack on the In Amenas gas plant, also operated by BP and Statoil, during which 40 oil workers were killed.
Reporting by Ali Abdelaty; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein and Patrick Markey; Editing by Toby Chopra