Hostage Standoff Ends in the Sahara

19/01/2013 Paris, France- Algerian special forces have stormed the last militant-held buildings at a BP gas installation in the Sahara desert seized this week by Islamist fundamentalists. The Algerian Interior Ministry says 11 militants were killed today but also says seven hostages were executed by their captives. Officials said that 16 foreign hostages were freed today, including two Americans, two Germans, and one Portuguese.

Earlier today, Algerian security forces found 15 burned bodies at the gas complex. It was not clear whether they were hostages or militants. The Algerian government also confirmed that 12 Algerian foreign hostages were killed during a rescue operation, two days ago – including one American and one French citizen. 18 kidnappers were reportedly killed in that same raid, which allowed over a hundred hostages to escape.

The man behind the hostage crisis is reportedly Algerian jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the one-eyed former bandit known as “the Uncatchable” or “Mr. Marlboro,” in recognition of his career as a brutally violent cigarette smuggler. Belmokhtar is also an arms smuggler who specializes in murder. His gang, called the “Signed in Blood Battalion,” makes millions of dollars in kidnapping foreign nationals throughout North and Western Africa. His terror organization became a sub-unit of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb desert. Before the current Algerian hostage crisis, the group numbered about 500 fighters.

 

Nick Vazzana

Paris

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