British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond says the hostage crisis in Algeria appears to be over, and more lives have been lost.
In a joint news conference in London with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Saturday, Hammond said terrorists bear the “sole responsibility” for the deaths. The British Foreign Ministry says fewer than 10 Britons remain unaccounted for.
The comments come shortly after Algeria’s official APS news agency said the country’s special forces stormed a natural gas complex early Saturday in a “final assault” on Islamists who have been holding hostages there in the Algerian desert.
APS reports the special forces killed 11 al-Qaida linked terrorists in the assault. News sources are reporting that kidnappers killed at least seven hostages, but the toll may rise.
Several Americans were among those being held. Panetta said he has “sketchy information” about them and would not comment until he had better details.
But he stressed that his government “cannot accept attacks against our citizens and our interests abroad.” He added that the U.S. also cannot accept an al-Qaida safe haven anywhere in the world.
U.S. officials confirmed late Friday that one American, Frederick Buttaccio, was among those killed during the siege.
The Algerian news agency reported that militants kidnapped 132 foreign hostages in their raid at a natural gas complex in eastern Algeria Wednesday. Nearly 100 foreign hostages were reported freed before Saturday’s assault.
It was not clear whether the freed hostages were rescued by the Algerian army or released by their captors.
The hostages at the site were believed to include nationals from the U.S., Britain, Japan, Norway, Romania, the Philippines, France, Malaysia and Austria. The gas complex is jointly run by Algerian, British and Norwegian firms.
The militants say they attacked the facility in retaliation for French military operations in Mali.
In France, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls also raised concerns about militant groups and links to Europe.
“For years, there have been French jihadis who have gone to fight a war in Afghanistan, in Syria, and a very small handful in the Sahel,” Valls said. “They are obviously being watched by our intelligence agencies.” VOA