The 21st Century Phenomenon



On Wednesday 01/16/2013, a large Jihadi group, led by Mukhtar Bilmukhtar, known as ‘Al-Mulathamin’ (The Veiled) ,carried out a raid on a BP gas facility in In-Amenas, in the Algerian Sahara, close to the Libyan border, about 1200 km Southeast from the Capital Algier on the Mediterranean, and took over 40 foreign hostages and over 100 local Algerian staff. They said the attack was related to the Mali Campaign and were seeking immediate withdrawal of the French troops from Mali. Soon the region was surrounded by Algerian troops. 


The gas facility produces 10%t of the country’s natural gas export and is comprised from the production area on the Western side, a living compound for the workers and a local airport about 6 km Eastward. 


According to the Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia the attack began as heavily armed “terrorist group” had attacked a bus carrying workers from In Amenas at about 05:00 (04:00 GMT) on Wednesday. The attackers were repelled by police who had been escorting the bus, but a Briton and an Algerian national had been killed. Simultaneously another group took over the In Amenas facility and living area. There were 132 foreigners and about 700 Algerians in the compound as the event occurred. 


Most of the Algerians and many of the foreigners managed to escape but the Jihadist militants took over 40 foreigners and few dozens of Algerians hostages.

Algerian helicopters and special forces stormed the gas plant on Thursday 01/17/2013 noon to wipe out Islamist militants and free captives from at least 10 countries. Bloody chaos ensued, leaving the fate of the fighters and many of the hostages uncertain. According to initial reports at least 6 people, and perhaps many more, were killed – Britons, Filipinos and Algerians. Dozens more remained unaccounted for: Americans, Britons, French, Norwegians, Romanians, Malaysians, Japanese, Algerians and the fighters themselves. Some reports put the death toll at over 30 hostages and 11 militants .A spokesman for the militants told the ANI agency (Mauritania) that 35 hostages and 15 militants had been killed in Thursday’s operation. The ‘Al-Mulathamine’ spokesman said Abu el-Baraa, the leader of the kidnappers, was among those killed in the helicopter attack. He said the fighters would kill the rest of their captives if the army approached.

One Algerian official said the figures were “exaggerated”. Eight Algerians and seven foreigners, including two British, two Japanese and a French national, were among the dead, an Algerian security source said.

An Algerian security official said the government was forced to intervene because the militants were being stubborn and wanted to flee with the hostages. It is also assumed that Algeria wanted to avoid accumulation of international interference in, what they consider, is their own internal affair. They also wanted to avoid any impact on the price of gas and oil worldwide.

“According to the information we have, the terrorist group which attacked the In Amenas site came from Libya,” Dahou Ould Kablia told Algeria’s Arab-language daily Echorouk.

Algerian sources admitted, on Friday 01/18/2013, about 60 foreign hostages are still unaccounted for. The militants, meanwhile, offered to trade two American hostages for terror figures jailed in the USA, according to a statement received by a Mauritanian news site that often reports news from North African extremists .They offered to trade the two American hostages for two prominent terror figures jailed in the United States: the mastermind of the 02/26/1993 World Trade Center bombing (Omar Abdel Rahman) and a Pakistani scientist convicted of shooting at two US soldiers in Afghanistan  (Aafia Siddiqui ).

On Friday, about 50 hours after the raid began, a number of hostages are still held by the gunmen somewhere inside the In Amenas compound by an unknown number of militants who managed to entrench themselves inside the facility. Algerian special forces resumed negotiating Friday with the militants holed up in the refinery, according to the Algerian news service, which cited a security source. 


Early on Saturday 01/19/2013, 16 foreign hostages being held by the Islamist fighters have been freed, a source close to the crisis said, and seven have been killed after the Algerian army launched a new assault. 11 of the al-Qaeda-linked fighters have also been killed. Those freed included 2 Americans, 2 Germans and 1 Portuguese, the source told Reuters news agency on Saturday. Burned bodies of 15 people were found at the site of the gas field on Saturday, but their identities are not clear.

The gunmen said that they are still holding 7 foreign hostages and that their demands of an end to the French military intervention in Mali and the release of prisoners remains unchanged. But the Algerian army insists they are no more hostages, they managed to clear the area, to kill all the perpetrators who did not flee the region earlier and that the crisis is now over.

Earlier on Saturday Mukhtar Bilmukhtar, now naming his group “Signatories in Blood” Qatiba (Battalion), told in a media contact with Sahara Media that they are still open to negotiations regarding a prisoner swap with the Algerian military, after earlier negotiations broke down and led to an Algerian security services assault on the facility.

*( “Signatories in Blood” was the elite unit of GIA during the Algerian Civil War in the 90s’ and, among other audacious attacks,carried out also the Flight-8969 attack , in 12/1994 ) 




 The commander of the raid has been identified as Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri. He is leading an assault team estimated at 40 fighters from the al-Mua’qi’oon Biddam, or “Signatories in Blood” Brigade. CNN reported that the attack was launched from Libya and and the fighters were trained at a camp linked to Al Qaeda But the Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal has said, on Monday 01/21/2013, the 32 militants who took dozens of people hostage at a gas plant had “come from northern Mali’. PM Abdelmalek Sellal also said a Canadian organising the attack, named only as Chedad, was among 29 militants killed


The assault unit was split into two teams, one that was led by Abu el-Baraa al-Jaziri (from Algeria), who took hostages in the residential area of the facility, and another by al-Nigeri himself, who targeted the factory and is also holding hostages there. Abu el-Baraa is reported to have been killed during the Algerian military assault.  


* According to Algerian security officials latest report at least 48 hostages and 32 hostage-takers died in the four-day stand-off, 7 of the hostages were killed by their captors It is assumed that a small number of militants managed to escape the scene. Three suspected Islamist attackers were reportedly arrested on Sunday. The personal fate of Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri, the ringleader, is yet unknown.  


* According to the Mauritanian news agency ANI,on Monday 01/21/2013, the kidnappers included militants from Algeria, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Egypt and Canada


* Prosecutors in the USA have charged , on Friday 07/19/2013, Mukhtar Bilmukhtar with participating in the In Amenas attack. He was charged in an eight-count complaint with conspiracy to provide material support to Al Qaeda, hostage-taking conspiracy, kidnapping of internationally protected persons and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, among other charges. 


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