Algeria Siege: Canada Examines Hostage Claims

by
staff
Canada's foreign minister has said he is trying to verify whether two Canadians were among the Islamists involved in the Algerian siege.

Mokhtar Belmokhtar

Canada's foreign minister has said he is trying to verify whether two Canadians were among the Islamists involved in the Algerian siege.

Algeria's prime minister said the hostage raid at a remote desert gas plant was co-ordinated by a Canadian.

The hostage crisis left 37 foreigners of eight nationalities and one Algerian worker dead.

PM Abdelmalek Sellal said the Canadian organising the attack, named only as Chedad, was among 29 militants killed.

"A Canadian was among the militants. He was co-ordinating the attack," Mr Sellal said. Chedad is a a surname found among Arabs in the region.

In Ottawa, Canada's foreign affairs department said it was seeking information about the reports.

Video claim

Foreign Minister John Baird told CTV on Monday: "What we are doing, our embassy in Algiers and our team in Ottawa, are working to try to verify these information and get the names of these alleged Canadians. But we can't report anything official at this time."

The attack on the gas facility at In Amenas has been claimed by Islamist Mokhtar Belmokhtar in a video distributed online.

The militant leader recently fell out with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which originated in Algeria but now operates throughout the Sahara and Sahel regions.

The four-day siege ended at the weekend when Algerian troops recaptured the site.

Three of the 29 militants who overran the facility near the desert town of Amenas were taken alive.

Five hostages - believed to include Japanese nationals - are still unaccounted for.

Americans, Britons and Japanese are among the dead with foreigners killed or still missing also including workers from France, Norway, Malaysia, the Philippines and Romania.

Mr Sellal said the kidnappers had crossed into the country from northern Mali, and that they were from Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Mali, Niger, Canada and Mauritania.

The militants said they had taken hostages in retaliation for French intervention against Islamists in Mali earlier this month.

However Mr Sellal said the attack on the gas plant had been planned for more than two months.

The crisis began on Wednesday when militants attacked two buses carrying foreign workers to the remote site in eastern Algeria. A Briton and an Algerian died in the incident.

The militants then took expatriates hostage at the complex, which was quickly surrounded by the Algerian army.

Algerian state media said later that 685 Algerian workers at the plant had escaped, with reports that militants told them they were only targeting non-Muslims.