Seven Americans Among Hostages Captured In Algeria In Retaliation Over French Mali Incursion

Tyler Durden's picture

Just because the endless Israel vs Iran foreplay seems to no longer be exciting the world as much as it did all throughout 2010, 2011 and 2012 when military action seemed imminent over and over, it appears the world has a new geopolitical tension point: the recent incursion into Mali by French (and soon many other) forces, to protect "European interests" against "extremists" operating in the North, and as a corollary - the retaliation by the locals against Western Democratic powers. At least such is the simplistic plot line. Sure enough moments ago Reuters reported that islamist militants attacked a gas field in Algeria on Wednesday, claiming to have kidnapped up to 41 foreigners including seven Americans in a dawn raid in retaliation for France's intervention in Mali, according to regional media reports. The raiders were also reported to have killed three people, including a Briton and a French national. Subsequent reports indicate that the Algerian captives have been let go, and that this is purely an escalation against the invaders, an act which the US state department will harshly condemn at a 1pm press conference, and likely use as a catalyst to unleash US forces in the air or on the ground, to support the French campaign which at last check was going horribly.

The attack took place in the gas field in Amenas, Alegeria, operated by a joint venture of BP, Statoil and the Algerian state company Sonatrach, presented below (via Google Maps)

And just so the average American is up to speed, the keyword "Al Qaeda" has been unleashed. One assumes this is a different Al Qaeda than the one organizing and coordinating the Syrian opposition activities against the local government which the US is also not a fan of.

From Reuters:

An al Qaeda affiliated group said the raid had been carried out because of Algeria's decision to allow France to use its air space for attacks against Islamists in Mali, where French forces have been in action against al Qaeda-linked militants since last week.

The attack in southern Algeria also raised fears that the French action in Mali could prompt further Islamist revenge attacks on Western targets in Africa, where al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) operates across borders in the Sahara desert, and in Europe.

AQIM said it had carried out Wednesday's raid on the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria, Mauritania's ANI news agency reported.

The Algerian interior ministry said: "A terrorist group, heavily armed and using three vehicles, launched an attack this Wednesday at 5 a.m. against a Sonatrach base in Tigantourine, near In Amenas, about 100 km (60 miles) from the Algerian and Libyan border."

The gas field is operated by a joint venture including BP , Norwegian oil firm Statoil and Algerian state company Sonatrach.

BP said armed men were still occupying facilities at the gas field.

"The site was attacked and occupied by a group of unidentified armed people at about 0500 UK time. Contact with the site is extremely difficult, but we understand that armed individuals are still occupying the In Amenas operations site," it said.

Algeria's official APS news agency said a Briton and an Algerian security guard had been killed and seven people were injured. A French national was also killed in the attack, a local source said.

Also among those reported kidnapped by various sources were five Japanese nationals working for the Japanese engineering firm JGC Corp, a French national, an Irishman, a Norwegian and a number of Britons.

A member of an Islamist group styling itself the "Blood Battalion" was quoted by Mauritanian media as saying that five of the hostages were being held at the gas facility and 36 were in a housing area. APS said the Islamist raiders had freed Algerians working at the gas facility.

"The operation was in response to the blatant interference by Algeria and the opening of its air space to French aircraft to bomb northern Mali," the Islamist spokesman told Mauritania's ANI news agency.

ANI, which has regular direct contact with Islamists, said that fighters under the command of Mokhtar Belmokhtar were holding the foreigners.

Belmokhtar for years commanded al Qaeda fighters in the Sahara before setting up his own armed Islamist group late last year after an apparent fallout with other militant leaders.

The Algerian army was in the area of the gas facility, according to French and Algerian sources.

The attack was the first time in years that Islamist militants are known to have launched an attack on an Algerian energy facility.

The attack could have implications for security across the whole of Algeria's energy sector, which supplies about a quarter of Europe's natural gas imports and exports millions of barrels of crude oil each year.

Such an attack would require a large and heavily-armed insurgent force with a degree of freedom to move around -- all elements that al Qaeda has not previously had.

However, the conflict in neighbouring Libya in 2011 changed the balance of force. Security experts say al Qaeda was able to obtain arms, including heavy weapons, from the looted arsenals of former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Statoil, a minority shareholder in the gas venture, said it had 17 employees at the plant and four of them had been evacuated. The company declined to comment on the other 13.

The five Japanese work for the engineering firm JGC Corporation, Jiji news agency reported, quoting company officials. JGC has a deal with Sonatrach-BP-Statoil Association for work in gas production at In Amenas.

A reporter for Japan's NHK television managed to call a JGC worker in Algeria.

The worker said he got a phone call from a colleague at the gas field. "It was around 6 a.m. this morning. He said that he had been hearing gunshots for about 20 minutes. I wasn't able to get through to him since."

French troops launched their first ground operation against Islamist rebels in Mali on Wednesday in an action to dislodge from a strategic town al Qaeda-linked fighters who have resisted six days of air strikes.

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news printer's picture
China's Military: Soldiers should prepare for war
  1. Don’t be so naive to take it for granted that maritime issues can be resolved in maritime ways,
  2. there is no difference among arms, and no difference between the front and the rear in a war,
  3. We also need to figure out why we should be prepared to fight and what kind of war we are going to fight


Seer's picture

"We also need to figure out why we should be prepared to fight and what kind of war we are going to fight"

Who the fuck is "we?"

Anyone who spouts such shit ought to run to their nearest recruiting station and sign up or else be shot dead.

DollarDive's picture


Aurora Ex Machina's picture

My initial comments on Mali were non-too rational, due to the obviousness with which it has developed, and the sheer lack of originality in the entire geo-political cluster fuck that's about to happen.

Anyhow, now to Algeria:

In Algeria Galula conducted radical experiments in what was called "revolutionary warfare" - and in these experiments lie the key to understanding the strange revolutionary roots of the theory of Counterinsurgency - and why it could so easily go wrong and lead to horror... he volunteered to go and serve in Algeria where France was fighting a war against the guerrilla army of the National Liberation Front. Galula found that other officers had been thinking along the same lines - and he was allowed to go and set up what was called "An Experimental Operational Zone"...

But it then shows what it says is the reality of the protected camps and villages that the local population had been put in for "re-education". As the commentary says, the reality was very different from that shown by the French to TV and newspaper correspondents while the war was on.

The film alleges that torture was used in the camps - and then it shows the revolutionaries unblocking an old well outside one of the villages and sending a young boy into the well to find out what is hidden down there. [source]

I'd imagine that the cultural memory of France and Algerian histories is still very much alive. This is not a smart place to be, especially with regards to the rebeu.


Excuse this tangent, but stuff on Mali I forgot to link to last time, which is central to the current conflict (please skip info dump if you want):

Reform of the health and education sectors were part of the requirements for participation in the HIPC arrangement. And Mali also had to “ensure satisfactory implementation of structural reforms, entailing the reforms of the cotton sector and the pursuit of the privatisation program, especialy of public unities”9. This is the most controversial part of the HIPC arrangement. The conditions connected to liberalisation, and in particular privatisation, have been extremely unpopular and difficult to implement in Mali...

As a step towards privatisation, the state subsidised fixed price of cotton that ensured farmers a predictable income, was removed. The fixed price was set at 210 CFA BCEAO Francs, 10 Francs higher than the production cost at 200 Francs, and 50 Francs higher than global market prices at 160 Francs. To finance this, the Malian state used 50 billion Francs, which equals about US$ 102 million. Moctar Coulibaly from the Malian NGO AMADIP says that this is not a lot when you take in to account that 3,5 million Malians live off the cotton industry. Especially, knowing that European agriculture is subsidised, American agriculture is subsidised, the price of cotton on the world market is subsidised.12 [Translation: without subsidies, economic collapse of market. You might want to look into the 2010/11 upsurge in Cotton prices that this fed into, and following downturn. See further cotton was at a 21 month low in May 2012]

Since 2006, gold has been the largest export article ahead of cotton, equalling 69 % of export revenues in 2006 due to the favourable high price level. Nevertheless, the export of gold does not have an important multiplier effect on the national economy as “the majority of generated added value slips away from national operators.”14The gold mines are owned largely by foreign companies: AngloGold Ashanti, a multinational with shareholders in North America and South Africa, UK among others, the Canadian company IAMGOLD and Randgold Ressources operating from the tax heaven Jersey.15 The Malian government retains about 20 % of ownership, and the World Bank group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) is part owner in one of the mines.

Malians have experienced massive job losses for instance in the case of the privatisation of the railway which is now managed by the Franco-Canadian company Transrail. 700 heads of household lost their jobs directly and each one of these had on average 5 people to provide for. In addition to that, Transrail has chosen to focus on the transportation of goods and not people, and in the process they have shut down 16 out of 26 railway stations.

China intervenes mostly in the sector of infrastructure. “The Chinese can finance up to 100% of a project and guarantee that it wil be followed through”, says Moctar Coulibaly stating this as the main reason why Chinese investment is preferred. Chinese enterprises win the bidding on the market. They come in with their own personnel from China, regrettably only hiring unqualified labour locally in Mali. The planned third bridge of Bamako is an example where the Chinese partner takes care of necessary technical and geographic exploration as well as engineering. Mali will finance the road that links the bridge to the national highway17. [Conditional Debt relief in Mail, 2007 Warning: PDF, thus the long quotations]


As Oxfam America has stated, “ Mali ’s gold exports have more than tripled in the last decade yet its citizens have so far seen little benefit from mining revenues”. Indeed, Mali ranks 178 out of 182 countries in the 2009 Human Development Report, being the world’s fifth poorest country.

The IMF paper acknowledges this and recognises that the gold mining sector has very limited positive spillovers to the Malian economy.

Gold represents more than 75% of Mali’s total exports but it accounts for only 8% of the country’s GDP. Similarly, royalties, profit taxes and dividends accounted for only 17% of total government revenue in 2008 despite the very high prices of gold. Furthermore, the impact of the mining sector on employment is extremely low. Just 1% of the total labour force including both formal and informal employment is employed in this sector. The added value of gold mining remains very weak.[source]


Who wants odds on Islamic Nationalists nationalising said mines?

Foreign investment in Mali is low and limited to handfuls of Lebanese owned night clubs and grocery stores, South African and Canadian owned mines and a very large administrative complex built by Muammar el-Qaddafi.  The US Embassy in Bamako states there are many sectors the Malian government is seeking to expand through the help of foreign investment.  But why, I wonder, does everyone want a piece of Mali?

The Bridge of Friendship in Bamako marks China's largest gift to West Africa and many are already waiting for bridge #4 and #5 to alleviate the capital city's awful traffic.  I hear Malians talk about how there are no strings attached to this bridge and that China is just doing a good thing for a poor country like Mali.  I have a hard time buying that but then how different is the US from China or Libya?  We might not be quite so overt about taking advantage of the country but we do benefit from our relations. 

Living here is kind of like being the friend of someone in a bizarre, gossip-y relationship.  One day I hear the accolades of USAID, Qaddafi and China - the next day I hear USAID is self-serving (possible), Qaddafi is crazy (yes) and China sends prisoners to work in Mali (also quite likely).  Sometimes the best friends are the ones who just listen so I will work on continuing to smile and nod.   

But maybe I am looking too much into this bridge.  Maybe China's gift of the Bridge of Friendship to Mali really does have no strings attached.  Maybe not.  While it is possible that China really is just looking for new friends - I think they are looking for a certain kind, as are all foreign investors - friends with benefits. [Sept 27, 2011 Blog referencing that bridge mentioned in 2007 PDF Do please note that Jennifer is probably not just a Peace Corp member]


Bets on that bridge getting bombed?


My odds on dark humour of the week:

France has a 600-strong force in CAR to defend about 1,200 of its citizens who live there.

Paris used air strikes to defend Bozize against a rebellion in 2006. But French President Francois Hollande turned down a request for more help, saying the days of intervening in other countries' affairs were over. [Reuters, Jan 2nd, 2013]


Oh, and p.s. AngloGold Ashanti. Very clever, I see what you did there.

Monedas's picture

I miss German and Japanese military action .... they were good players .... welcome back to the fight .... I'd love to see some German bitch slapping in Mali .... and boy would I love to see Japan stick some chopsticks up North Koreas flat nose !  

Jack Burton's picture

But you won't be taking part I gather?

Monedas's picture

All this financial chaos and terrorism is creating some nice PM price creep .... keep it up .... 2013 could be the year .... disrupt locally .... think globally .... do your part to whip up the flames of war .... I may stick around a few more years .... just to enjoy the spectacle .... and spend my hoard on coke and hookers !  Yahoooo !   Me happy  !     Give Monedas a raison d'vivre !

All Out Of Bubblegum's picture

We've always been at war with Mali.

Aurora Ex Machina's picture

We've always been at war with North Mali.


Fixed that for you. The South is our friend, and always has been.

All Out Of Bubblegum's picture

"Beautiful thing, the destruction of words."

magpie's picture

Let me politically correct and update your is Azawad versus the Nobel Peace Prize Winning Entity.

magpie's picture

Let me politically correct and update your is Azawad versus the Nobel Peace Prize Winning Entity.