Islamist militants attack In Amenas gas facility, seize hostages

Islamist militants attacked the In Amenas gas production facility Jan. 16 in eastern Algeria near the Libyan border and were said to have seized an “undetermined” number of hostages, according to various news reports. The abductions—reported to include Japanese, French, and Irish nationals—were said to have been in retaliation for the continuing French-led military intervention in neighboring Mali.

In Amenas is a wet gas field operated through a joint venture of Algeria’s state-owned Sonatrach, the UK’s BP PLC, and Norway’s Statoil AS. Japanese engineering firm JGC also provides services there.

In Amenas lies 850 km south of Hassi Messaoud. The project includes development of four primary gas fields plus gas-gathering and processing facilities. The first of three production trains started up on May 27, 2006, followed by a period of final commissioning and testing (OGJ Online, June 23, 2006).

Statoil reported that its emergency response organization was mobilized, and that the firm was working to get an overview of the fast-changing situation. Statoil has just under 20 employees at the facility, and more than 10 of these are Norwegian, it said.

Meanwhile, Algerian authorities are handling the situation locally, while Norwegian and British authorities have also been informed of the incident.

Fighters with links to Al Qaeda’s African affiliate Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Agence France-Presse.

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