Hostages surrendering to Islamist gunmen who overtook a gas facility in Tiguentourine near In Amenas in the south of the country. (AFP)
Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the terrorist leader linked to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the Algerian gas plant attack this week in a new video.
The Province reported:
Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the terrorist leader linked to al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the Algerian hostage siege, describing it as a “blessed operation”.
Leader of a militant brigade called “Those who Sign with Blood”, he had already been identified as the mastermind behind the attack, making him one of the world’s most wanted men.
In a video message posted online Sunday, Belmokhtar confirmed his involvement and said the operation was carried out by 40 Islamist fighters, including several Westerners. It was filmed before the standoff ended in a bloodbath on Saturday and the militant, who lost an eye while fighting in Algeria, demanded that France withdraw its troops from Mali as the price of any negotiation.
The video was posted by a website called Sahara Media, based in Mauritania, another North African hotbed of Islamist militancy.
“We in al-Qaeda announce this blessed operation,” Belmokhtar said. “We are ready to negotiate with the West and the Algerian government provided they stop their bombing of Mali’s Muslims.”
Belmokhtar claimed that about 40 jihadists were involved in the attack — “most of them from Muslim countries and some even from the West”.
Mohamed Said, Algeria’s communications minister, said yesterday that the militants included men of six different nationalities. Belmokhtar was not among the raiders. The attack was thought to have been led by Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri, a field commander close to Belmokhtar who is thought to be among the 32 fighters killed.
Meanwhile, the BBC says the Algerian forces captured five of the terrorists.
The BBC reported:
At least 48 hostages are now thought to have died in a four-day siege at an Algerian gas plant, as reports say that 25 bodies found at the complex on Sunday were all those of captives.
It had initially been unclear whether the bodies found were those of hostage-takers or staff at the facility.
A day earlier, Algerian officials reported the deaths of 23 hostages, saying many more were unaccounted for.
Five suspected Islamist attackers were reportedly arrested on Sunday.
The Algerian authorities had said on Saturday that all 32 hostage-takers had been killed.