Thursday was a day marked with confusion, concern, frustration and bloodshed as members of the Algerian military launched a rescue offensive on a BP gas complex in Amenas, Algeria.
As reported by Digital Journal earlier on Thursday, the Algerian military launched a helicopter attack on the gas complex where members of the Al-Qaeda linked militant group, Masked Brigade, were holding 41 foreign nationals hostage. An unknown number of Algerian citizens who worked at the complex were also being held captive. Initial reports stated that 35 hostages had been killed during a rescue attempt. Those numbers however have yet to be confirmed and details of the raid remain sketchy.
JGC , a Japanese engineering company that constructed the gas complex, stated that there were 17 Japanese citizens taken captive on Wednesday. In a statement issued on Thursday, the company said:
"Our main focus is the safety of our staff at the site. We are attempting to confirm the facts of the situation at the moment, and will continue to communicate with authorities, asking them to protect the lives of our staff."
Officials with the Japanese government expressed reservations about any potential military raid, urging the Algerian government to "put the highest priority on people's lives". Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, protested the military raid, saying it "threatened the lives of the hostages."
Following the raid, Takeshi Endo, spokesman for JGC, told the Japan Times:
“So far, we have been able to communicate with three of 17 Japanese. There was a rescue effort by Algeria’s military. Perhaps there was a intense military action. We can only imagine that our staff were placed in an extremely confusing situation.”
Irish citizen Stephen McFaul was one of those who escaped the hostage takers Thursday morning. He told his family that members of the Algerian military fired on jeeps carrying hostages and militants. According to McFaul's brother, Brian, Stephen described what occurred during the raid. David told The Guardian:
"They were moving five jeep-loads of hostages from one part of the compound. At that stage they were intercepted by the Algerian army. The army bombed four out of five of the trucks and four of them were destroyed. The truck my brother was in crashed and at that stage Stephen was able to make a break for his freedom. He presumed everyone else in the other trucks was killed."
The Irish government has confirmed that an one of their citizens were among those who escaped the complex Thursday morning. Eamon Gilmore, Ireland’s foreign minister issued a statement which said:
“While naturally we are delighted that Stephen McFaul is free and safe, our thoughts are with his fellow workers and the other people who have not been so fortunate. Our thoughts are particularly with the citizens of other countries who have still not been accounted for.”
ABC News reports that five of the Americans held captive at the complex escaped and are believed to have already left Algeria. At least three Americans were killed during the raid however.
Agents with the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have already begun conducting interviews and collecting evidence for any possible criminal investigation and future prosecution of those involved in the take over of the complex. The FBI is working with other U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies to conduct the investigation.
Official with the U.K. government were not notified of the raid prior to its initiation. Prime Minister David Cameron had offered British assistance with any rescue attempt and stressed that he wanted to be informed before any operation was launched. After learning that an Algerian military raid of the complex was under way, a spokesman with the British government told The Telegraph:
“The Algerian prime minister explained that the situation was extremely fast moving and that in the Algerian government’s judgment they needed to act immediately.”
The spokesman also confirmed that the Algerian government did not request any assistance with the raid and that Cameron insisted that he "be kept very closely updated and informed on the ongoing operation”.
The backlash from the U.S., U.K. and other governments is growing as Algerian officials refuse to offer details as to what actually occurred during the rescue attempt. Some are criticizing the Algerian government for their refusal to accept assistance from the United States and Britain, while also choosing to ignore the British government's request to be kept informed of any developments or rescue efforts.
According to the Daily Mail, Algeria has been an ally of France and the U.S. since the war on terrorism began several years ago. It remains unclear why the Algerian government remains reluctant to discuss the rescue attempt with its allies, and no time frame for a release of details has been announced.