A hostage situation escalates in Algeria

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By Dorothy Hazan

Shortly after the Jan. 16 attack on the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria, the Algerian government launched a unilateral assault on the Islamist militants responsible.

The insurgents, who may be linked to Jihadists in the region, took dozens of international plant workers hostage.

The prompt Algerian counterstrike killed the kidnappers and freed an unknown number of captives, but left other captives dead.

Some Algerian officials estimated the total number of foreign casualties at somewhere between four and 35 people, though others say that this is an exaggeration.

The plant is owned by BP, Norway’s Statoil and Algeria’s Sonatrach. The approximately 41 hostages included American and other gas plant workers.

Fighters associated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attack on the fourth-largest Algerian gas development, citing retribution for French military intervention in neighboring Mali.

Mali has been in turmoil since a coup in March of 2012 ousted President Amadou Toumani Touré, bringing Islamic extremists to power in the north and raising global concerns that the nation could become a safe haven for terrorists.

When Mali’s military gave no indication that they were willing to intervene, France launched a military effort to dislodge the extremists.

The resulting attack on the In Amenas plant may have significantly widened the borders of the Mali conflict, since hostages included American, British, French, Norwegian and Japanese citizens.

In a New York Times article published on Jan. 17, writers Adam Nossiter and Rick Gladstone referred to the escalating conflict as a “war.”

In addition to its political ramifications, Algeria’s hostage crisis made headlines when energy companies were forced to reconsider the way they secure their facilities.

Though analysts assured that the recent siege will not significantly or permanently affect the oil and gas industries.

Companies are upping their security precautions, temporarily evacuating employees and even relocating out of some of the more volatile areas.

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