Algiers (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 48 hostages and 32 kidnappers were killed in the Algerian army raid on the gas plant in In Amenas. A more accurate toll will be given by the authorities in Algiers this afternoon. For now, there are rumours of the discovery of the bodies of 25 hostages, while another 20 remain missing. The Army is raking in every corner of the huge plant in the Sahara desert to search for other victims and other militants. Of these 32 were killed and five were arrested, but three are on the run.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the mastermind behind the attack and the kidnapping, has released a video (perhaps previously recorded) which states that the terrorist act was carried out by 40 militants from the Islamic world and Europe. The group, linked to al Qaeda, acted to free the Muslims of Mali from the French invasion. He also says that he wanted to negotiate with the Algerian authorities for "an immediate end to the aggression against Muslims in Mali and for the liberation of our brothers held captive by the Crusaders."
Among the hostages are British, American, Colombian, Japanese, Filipino, Malaysian, Norwegian, Romanian.
The army put an end to kidnapping two days ago, after a two day siege, freeing 685 Algerians and 107 foreigners.
The stories of the freed hostages reveal the militants as ruthless killers. To coax the foreigners from hiding, they declared they were only searching for Americans. But then they killed and imprisoned them all without any distinction. For days, they held several hostages with explosives strapped around their necks, ready to detonate them. Three Japanese, who tried to escape were killed. The Algerian workers were kept separate from foreigners and were "treated with kindness", many of them were allowed to escape.
IntelCenter, an anti-terrorism intelligence group, said that the operation of In Amenas is the largest since the Mumbai attacks in 2008, and the worst since the massacre in the Moscow theater in 2002 and the Beslan school massacre in 2004.