Algiers, Jan. 16 (Reuters): Islamist militants attacked a gas field in Algeria today, claiming to have kidnapped up to 41 foreigners including seven Americans in a dawn raid in retaliation for France’s intervention in Mali, according to regional media reports.
The raiders were also reported to have killed three persons, including a Briton and a French national.
An al Qaida affiliated group said the raid had been carried out because of Algeria’s decision to allow France to use its air space for attacks against Islamists in Mali, where French forces have been in action against al Qaida-linked militants since last week.
The attack in southern Algeria also raised fears that the French action in Mali could prompt further Islamist revenge attacks on western targets in Africa, where al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) operates across borders in the Sahara desert, and in Europe.
AQIM said it had carried out today’s raid on the In Amenas gas facility in Opec member Algeria, Mauritania’s ANI news agency reported.
The Algerian interior ministry said: “A terrorist group, heavily armed and using three vehicles, launched an attack this Wednesday at 5am against a Sonatrach base in Tigantourine, near In Amenas, about 100km from the Algerian and Libyan border.”
“The Algerian authorities will not respond to the demands of the terrorists and will not negotiate,” interior minister Daho Ould Kablia was quoted as saying by official news agency APS. The gas field is operated by a joint venture including BP , Norwegian oil firm Statoil and Algerian state company Sonatrach.
BP said armed men were still occupying facilities at the gas field, which produces 9 billion cubic metres of gas a year.