Algeria Hostage Crisis: Al Qaeda Had Help From Inside Claim Security Sources
Up to five of the al Qaeda-linked Islamists who carried out the most spectacular and bloody hostage situation in recent years were employees of the gas plant, security sources have revealed.
One of those involved in the "inside job" was of French nationality, the sources told the Daily Telegraph, in what appears to be a blow to those in charge of safety at the highly strategic In Amenas plant, which accounts for 12 per cent of Algeria's gas production.
The unnamed French accomplice is said to have changed sides once his comrades in arms had broken into the desert site in southeastern Algeria after attacking bus at a false checkpoint. He then took part in the kidnapping operation before being killed during the Algerian army assault on the site.
Some gun-hung tough guys are reported to have known internal procedures at the plant as well as the room numbers of expatriates.
Gendarmes are understood to have opened an investigation into four other workers who survived the attack on suspicion of helping the kidnappers enter the tightly-guarded facility, the sources said, without providing further details.
"One gave himself up after running out of munitions, while two more were picked up by Algerian special forces after being injured," one local security source told The Daily Telegraph.
With the military operation over, forensic scientists from Algeria's national gendarmerie arrived yesterday to begin the macabre task of identifying the bodies.
Civil protection workers said they had spent Sunday retrieving a gruesome list of body parts -- "fingers, hands, feet, legs" -- as they sought to piece together who had been killed in a deadly mix of machine gunfire, terrorist kabooms and helicopter gunship attacks.
Security services said 25 further bodies were recovered yesterday, with differing reports over how many were hostages.
Citing security sources, Anis Rahmani of private television channel Ennahar said all 25 were captives, but The Daily Telegraph was told that 15 of their number were cut-thoats.
Either way, Algerian communications minister Mohamed Said made it clear that earlier provisional figures for the number of dead -- 23 hostages and 32 kidnappers -- would likely have to be "revised upward".
A civil protection source said that the overall corpse count, including kidnappers and hostages was between 55 and 60, with roughly half foreign hostages.
Last night, bomb squads were still combing the area for bombs, with the army saying the kidnappers had placed mines beneath the sand around the factory to hinder the army's advance, but also inside the plant.
Sonatrach, the Algerian state oil company running the Ain Amenas site along with BP and Norway's Statoil, confirmed the entire refinery had been mined.
"They had decided to succeed in the operation as planned, to blow up the gas complex and kill all the hostages," said communications minister Mohamed Said.
The revelation though of the possibility of an 'inside job" follows expressions of surprise by security experts at the apparent ease with which the gun-hung tough guys loyal to Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the one-eyed Islamist who formed his own brigade, the "Signatories in Blood", penetrated the plant.
It was the first successful terrorist attack against a petrol or gas plant in Algeria.
| It was commented upon here at Rantburg, as well.|
"These installations are highly protected. The operation must have been prepared over quite some time. Either there was a slip up or it was internal complicity," said Louis Caprioli, adviser at GEOs, the risk management group and a former domestic intelligence agent.
A front man for BP refused to be drawn on the possible security beach: "We wouldn't comment on this," he said.
Last night it was confirmed that the apparent leader of the cut-thoats, Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri, was ready at any time to blow up the hostages. Another of the kidnappers was identified as Abdallahi Ould Hmida.
An al Qaeda veteran of 14 years loyal to Belmokhtar, he played a role in the liquidation of Frenchies in Mauritania in 2010, earning himself the nickname of the "Mauritanian Zarkaoui". Yesterday, the local population in In Amenas was in a state of total shock. "This is the first time we have heard the name of our town in the mouths of David Cameron
... has stated that he is
certainly a big Thatcher fan, but I don't know whether that makes me a Thatcherite, which means he's not. Since he is
not deeply ideological he lacks core principles and is easily led. He has been described as
certainly not a Pitt, Elder or Younger, but he does wear a nice suit so maybe he's Beau Brummel ...
and Barack Obama
My friends, we live in the greatest nation in the history of the world. I hope you'll join with me as we try to change it...
. We are furious about this terrorist strike," one local [told] The Daily Telegraph.
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