Saturday

25th Feb 2017

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.

Feature

Armenia-Azerbaijan war: Line of contact

“Frontline coffee is the best coffee in the world”, an Armenian lieutenant told EUobserver, with soldiers' morale among their strongest weapons in the war against an oil-rich foe.

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EURORDISJoin the Rare Disease Day and Help to Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  4. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  5. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  6. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  7. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  9. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations