Thursday, January 17, 2013

17-Jan-13: 'Kidnapping' 'militant' 'hostage-taking' Islamists and the Algerian terror attack now underway

Mokhtar Belmokhtar: "Veteran, one-eyed jihadist-cum-gangster" who leads
an Al Qaeda offshoot, but large parts of the media
don't dare call him terrorist [Image Source: Dagbladet, Norway]
A major terrorist attack, and a massive intervention by local authorities against the terrorists, are going on at this moment in Algeria.

If you tune in to the BBC (among other similarly afflicted news reporting sources) right now, you will not see the word 'terror', the word 'terrorist' or the word 'terrorism' anywhere in the reporting, though every single reader and viewer of the BBC's products understands that the story is all about terrorism.

In brief, what happened is that yesterday (Wednesday) morning around 4 am, a gas plant located in the In Amenas natural gas field of eastern central Algeria, operated by energy giant BP, Statoil of Norway and the Algerian state oil company, Sonatrach [source] came under terrorist attack - that's what US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called it. The New York Times says the attack by the "armed extremists" is "retaliation for the French military intervention in Mali" on which we reported three days ago [see "14-Jan-13: How do you say "proportionality" in French?"]

The terrorists are led by a man The Independent calls "a veteran, one-eyed jihadist-cum-gangster called Mokhtar Belmokhtar". 41 foreign workers and hundreds of Algerians were immediately taken hostage. Some later escaped; others appear to have been killed by Algerian forces in a military operation this morning. The death and injuries toll is provisional - it's clear that in the fog of the current events, the real results will come only later.

During the past hour (according to Atlantic Wire):
A spokesperson for UK Prime Minister David Cameron says he was no informed about the operation before it began, but wishes he had been. Cameron "told the Algerian PM in a call that he would have preferred to have been informed beforehand" and is "extremely concerned" about the "very grave and dangerous situation." The United States has dispatched a surveillance drone to observe the situation at the plant, according to CBS News.
For now, here's the provisional assessment (via Daily Mail) of the foreigners who were taken hostage:
  • NORWAY: Nine employees of Statoil
  • UNITED STATES: Seven Americans have been captured, according to the terrorists. The US says its citizens are involved but has given no numbers.
  • BRITAIN: “Several” British nationals are among the hostages, the UK government says.
  • JAPAN: At least three of the hostages are Japanese, according to the Japanese media.
  • MALAYSIA: Two Malaysians being held, the government says.
  • IRELAND: A 36-year-old Irish man is among the hostages, according to Ireland’s government.
  • FRANCE: President Francois Hollande confirmed Thursday that French nationals were among those being held.
Here's the BBC's terrorism-free version:

BBC World Service: Algeria siege: 'Victims' as army tries to free hostages
Algerian forces have moved against Islamic militants holding hostages at a gas facility in eastern Algeria, the state news agency reports. Four foreign hostages were freed but the operation resulted in a number of "victims"... Algerian soldiers had been surrounding the facility near In Amenas that kidnappers occupied on Wednesday, after killing a Briton and an Algerian. Reports quoting militants said at least 34 hostages and 14 kidnappers died. Militants told Mauritania's ANI news agency that seven foreign hostages were still alive after the Algerian military raid. Nearly 600 Algerian workers and four foreign hostages - two from Scotland, one from France and one from Kenya - were freed during the operation... An Irishman who had been kidnapped was freed and has spoken to his family, Ireland's foreign ministry said.... "About half" the foreign hostages had been freed. In Algeria's Liberte, Salim Tamani writes that it could signal the start of reprisals for Algeria allowing French jets to use its airspace for actions in Mali. Salem Ferdi writes in Algeria's Le Quotidien d'Oran that the attack "will have disastrous consequences for the Algerian oil and gas industry". In France, Pierre Rousselin writes in Le Figaro that Algeria is "a country in which any French intervention gives rise to mistrust. Its resistance against the terrorist threat must be supported". [Note that the
BBC's absurdly ideological policy specifies that while the word terrorism cannot be used in the ordinary way, it can be quoted when someone else uses it.] The Algerian military targeted two vehicles as they tried to escape from the site with an unknown number of people on board. Militants told local media that Algerian forces had opened fire from the air. The militants earlier said they were holding 41 foreign nationals. They are believed to include British, Japanese, US and Norwegian citizens. Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia earlier said the kidnappers were Algerian and operating under orders from Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a senior commander of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) until late last year. [The name of the terrorist organization can be stated, but the fact that the terrorist organization is a terrorist organization cannot.] Mr Ould Kablia said the kidnappers had not entered Algeria from a neighbouring country. One statement purported to be from the hostage-takers called for an end to the French military intervention against Islamist rebels in neighbouring Mali. Algeria allowed France to use its airspace during its operation against Islamist militants who occupied northern Mali last year. The French operation began on Friday. [more from BBC World Service]
A part of us feels sorry for the writers and editors forced to put together reports about fast-moving terrorist attacks carried out by kidnapping militant hostage-taking Islamists. But on a moment's further reflection, we have utter contempt for the circumlocuting Bush House ideologues who have been taken prisoner in the cognitive warfare raging around them of which they seem to be almost totally unaware.

It's too early by far to summarize the ongoing events in this major terror attack other than to say there has already been a horrifying loss of innocent lives - dozens of people from many national backgrounds, according to the latest AP report - and there will be significant economic fallout. Concerning the latter, the Washington Post's analyst writes this:
The biggest economic pain, though, will of course be in Algeria itself. The In Amenas field produced $3.9 billion a year in exports. Energy is a big component of the Algerian economy, and this crisis, even once it ends, could risk scaring off potential investors. If you were a European energy executive, how much money would you want to put into North Africa right now?
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