Islamist terrorists have abducted at least two foreign nationals in eastern Algeria, according to the UK Foreign Office.
One person was killed during the attack on an oil in the town of In Amenas, according to local media reports. The installation is jointly operated by BP, Algeria’s Sonatrach state oil company, and Norway’s Statoil firm. There is also a Japanese engineering company working as a contractor at the installation.
The UK Foreign Office released a statement saying it was “seeking clarification from oil companies working in the area as to whether they have personnel involved.”
Reportedly the Algerian Armed Forces have launched an operation to free the hostages. It is not clear which nationalities are involved.
Israel has no diplomatic relations with Algeria, nor with Mali, Somalia or Nigeria. Nevertheless, Israeli business owners and contractors are often involved in transactions that take place in Western African nations, including those that have no diplomatic relations with Jerusalem.
Radical Islamists in the region have in recent years seized a number of foreign nationals. At present, French citizens are being held in several areas across the region, according to a report published by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
Somalia’s Islamist Al Shabaab terrorists are meanwhile threatening to kill French intelligence agent Denis Allex, held by the Al Qaeda-linked organization since 2009. However, it is unclear whether the agent, who goes by a pseudonym, is even alive. A last-ditch attempt to rescue the agent in a raid by French commandos last Saturday ended with the death of two French soldiers. French officials said at the time that it was likely Allex had been killed as well, despite claims by Al Shabaab that he was still alive and not present at the time. French Chief of Defense Staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud told Europe 1 Radio, “We have no element since the raid indicating Denis Allex is alive. We think he is most likely dead.”
As France’s elite DGSE secret service continues to try and ferret out the truth of whether in fact Allex has survived, French troops are preparing for their first major ground war with well-armed Islamist jihadists in nearby Mali.
Although the Malian government has long struggled against rebels for control of the country, it was the capture of Konna last Thursday by Islamist jihadists that prompted France to step into the conflict. Konna is an area that includes both a town and a rural commune containing some 24 villages, spanning an area of nearly 840 square kilometers. It is located in the Mopti Region of the country, wherein lies the city of Mopti, capital of Mali.
France has already sent 800 soldiers to Mali, with the expectation of increasing that number to 2,500. The UK has provided transport planes. Germany provided logistical support with two Transall transport planes as well.
Nigeria is also participating in the operation, with some 900 troops set to lead the force. Benin, Ghana, Niger, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Togo have also pledged their participation. The West African force is being dispatched under the authority of a United Nations Security Council resolution, and is expected to total at least 3,300 troops.
Secular Tuareg rebels from the separatist MNLA organization in northern Mali who once stood side-by-side with fellow Islamist rebels, have said they oppose Islamist terrorism and Al Qaeda. An official from the group told the BBC on Wednesday the secular Tuareg are ready to fight their former allies.