The hostage crisis in Algeria is now entering its third day as Reuters and Agence French-Press report there are 60 foreigners are still held hostage or missing at the oil field overrun by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) militants.Algerian state news service reports that nearly 100 out of 132 foreign hostages have been freed.
Mauritania’s ANI news agency — which seems to be in constant contact with the kidnappers — reports that the militants are seeking the release of Aafia Siddiqui and Omar Abdel-Rahman (aka “Blind Sheikh”) in exchange for an unknown number of U.S. hostages.
Rahman, an Egyptian in his mid-70s, served as spiritual adviser to the group of terrorists who carried out the 1993 bombing of the World Trade centre that killed six and wounded numerous others. He is currently confined at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons medical facility in Butner, N.C. after being convicted of participating in a seditious conspiracy in 1995.
Siddiqui is a Pakistani neuroscientist serving a sentence for attempted murder in the U.S.
A U.S. Air Force C-130 is reportedly in the process of transporting a total of 10 to 20 Americans and other foreign hostages to an U.S. facility in Europe.
Earlier Le Monde cited the Algeria’s official APS news agency as saying 650 hostages — 573 Algerians and 77 foreigners — had been freed from the In Amenas oil field in southeast Algeria, but the other 55 foreign hostages are unaccounted for.
The Algerian newspaper El Watan reported, citing unnamed security sources, that Algerian special forces succeeded in capturing one of the hostage-takers. Algerian security sources have told AFP (via Le Figaro) that “between six or seven” of the 32 militants remain in the industrial part of the plant, which is encircled by Algerian security forces.
An Algerian security source told Reuters that 30 hostages and at least 11 Islamist militants — only two of whom were Algerian — were killed on Thursday when Algerian helicopters and forces stormed the desert gas plant.
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