Seized By Qaeda
Terror Thugs Grab 3 Americans At Algeria Plant.
By Joseph Straw and Ginger Adams Otis
January 17, 2013
Three Americans are among the hostages seized by Islamic militants in Algeria on Wednesday, a U.S. official told the Daily News.
The U.S. is ready to “take all necessary and proper steps” to free the Americans and other hostages, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters in Italy.
Panetta said the early-morning raid on a BP gas facility was a terrorist act akin to 9/11.
“Terrorists are terrorists. We’ve witnessed their behavior in a number of occasions where they have to total disregard for innocent men and women, This appears to be that kind of situation,” Panetta said.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that “the best information that we have at this time is that U.S. citizens are among the hostages.”
She did not give a number or names but the official said the captured Westerners included three Americans.
The Islamic attackers, believed to be linked to Al Qaeda, claim to have as many as 40 Western hostages, including some from Japan, Norway, Britain, Ireland and France, Algeria Press Service said.
The attackers, calling themselves the “Signatories by Blood” battalion, demanded that France end its military actions against Islamist insurgents in neighboring Mali, according to Mauritania’s Nouakchott News Agency. France started its offensive Friday.
Algeria’s top security official, Interior Minister Daho Ould Kabila, said that “security forces have surrounded the area and cornered the terrorists, who are in one wing of the complex’s living quarters.”
Algeria is not open to negotiating with the militants, who appear to be trying to arrange an exit strategy, Kabila said, raising speculation about a possible armed assault to try to free the hostages.
Rep. Pete King (R-LI) chairman of the counterterrorism and intelligence subcommittee, said the raid was a worrisome signal that Al Qaeda is “expanding and building” a North Africa power base.