3 Americans Among 37 Foreigners Killed in Algeria Siege

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 21 2013 11:59 AM

Algeria: 37 Foreign Workers, Including 3 Americans, Killed in Siege Led by Canadian

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Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal speaks during a press conference on Monday

Photo by AFP/Getty Images

The Algerian government finally spoke about the crisis that has put the country at the center stage of global terrorism concerns since Wednesday, when a group of Islamist militants took over a desert gas plant. Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said that a total of 37 foreigners, seven of whom are still unidentified, died during the hostage crisis that ended Saturday. Three Americans, three Britons, and seven Japanese were among the dead, reports the Associated Press. All but one of the dead hostages were foreigners and five are still missing. The prime minister said the militants were primarily interested in taking over a bus that was carrying foreign workers, including a BP director, to take them to Northern Mali and use them as leverage during negotiations.

The government’s account Monday illustrated just how international the plot to take over the gas plant was. The Islamist militants included two Canadians, one of whom apparently coordinated the attack, reports Reuters. The group of hostage takers included people from Egypt, Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Tunisia, and Algeria. The militants wore army uniforms and apparently had inside information through a former driver at the plant who took part in the siege. Three suspected militants are in custody but officials didn’t reveal their nationalities.

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Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a one-eyed veteran jihadist, reportedly released a video claiming responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out on behalf of al-Qaida, reports the New York Times.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.