Thursday

28th Jul 2016

Europeans taken hostage over Mali war

  • The gas plant at In Amenas is close to the Libyan border (Photo: Google Maps)

EU foreign ministers on Thursday (17 January) are holding a crisis meeting on Mali, after one British citizen was killed and 41 internationals taken hostage at a British-Norwegian gas plant in Algeria in retaliation over the French intervention in Mali.

The In Amenas gas plant is a British-Norwegian-Algerian joint venture in the Algerian desert close to the Libyan border.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

It was taken over on Wednesday by an armed group calling itself the Battalion of the Blood, under the command of one Mokhtar Belmokhtar.

The group says it acted in retaliation against the French intervention in Mali against local Al Qaeda affiliates trying to seize control of the country.

British foreign minister William Hague confirmed the death of one British citizen, who was gunned down in the attack.

But he could not say how many other Britons had been taken hostage. An Algerian national is also reported to have been killed, according to local media, while six hostages are wounded.

"Whatever excuse is being used by terrorists and murderers, there is no excuse. This is the cold-blooded murder of people going about their business," Hague said on Thursday during a visit to Australia.

Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil confirmed in a press conference early Thursday that 12 Norwegian citizens were taken hostage, while five managed to escape to a nearby military base.

A 36-year old Irishman has also been captured, say Irish authorities.

The US and Japan have also confirmed they have nationals among the hostages, but gave no details about their number or age.

Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande could not confirm whether any French citizens had been captured.

TV channel France 24 on Wednesday evening broadcast a brief phone interview with a Frenchman on the site, saying that they were locked in a building in In Amenas and had to carry explosives on them to discourage any intervention by the Algerian army.

The Algerian authorities have said there should be no negotiations with terrorists and that the plant is surrounded by armed forces.

The British foreign ministry, for its part, has dispatched a team of diplomats to Algeria.

France last week launched air strikes and deployed ground troops in Mali to prevent its former colony from being taken over by Islamic extremists. President Hollande promised to "destroy" the "terrorists" or take them captive, "if possible."

His intervention is backed by the international community, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday saying that "terrorism in Mali is not only a threat to Africa, but a threat to Europe."

Merkel urged quick EU action on its long-planned training mission for Mali forces and said her government is supporting the French with transport aircraft and mobile medical units.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday said the hostage crisis will feature prominently at the foreign ministers' meeting.

"[The radical groups] have taken many hostages. Many of them originated from European member states. So, under no circumstances, can we be indifferent to the situation," she said.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. GoogleHelping Emergency Services Find You When You Need It Most
  2. Counter BalanceWhat's New in the Investment Plan for Europe: Business as Usual or True Innovation ?
  3. Belgrade Security ForumMigration, Security and Solidarity within Global Disorder: Academic Event 2016
  4. GoogleHow Google Fights Piracy: Creating Value While Fighting Piracy
  5. EJC"My Visit to Israel" - Opinion by MEP Lopez Aguilar, Chair of the EP Working Group on Antisemitism
  6. World VisionChildren Migrating, Out of School and at Work as Hunger Deepens in Southern Africa
  7. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStand-Up (and Exercise) to Prevent Chronic Diseases
  8. Centre Maurits CoppietersLaunches a Real-time News Hub Specialised in EU Stakeholders
  9. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen Calls for International Probe Into Turkey Coup Allegations
  10. GoogleEU-US Privacy Shield: Restoring Faith in Data Flows and Transatlantic Relations
  11. World VisionWorld Leaders & Youth Advocates Launch Partnership to End Violence Vs. Children
  12. Counter BalanceReport: Institutionalised Corruption in Romania's Third Largest Company