|Algeria bloodbath claims 37 foreigners
Thirty-seven foreigners of eight different nationalities, as well as an Algerian, were killed by hostage-takers in an attack on a remote gas plant, some of them executed.
Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said five other foreigners were still missing, and some of the hostages had been executed “with a bullet to the head,’’ as the four-day crisis at the In Amenas gas plant deep in the Sahara ended in a bloodbath on Saturday, AFP reports.
Sellal gave the final grim figures amid fears that 50 captives may have died.
“Thirty-seven foreigners of eight different nationalities'' were killed during the siege, Sellal said. The death f an Algerian brings the overall toll to 38.
He did not specify the nationalities of foreigners, seven of whom remain unidentified, but other official sources have already confirmed seven Japanese, six Filipinos, three Britons, two Romanians and one Frenchman died. The United States also confirmed on Monday three of its citizens were among the dead.
Survivors' photos seen by AFP showed bodies riddled with bullets, some with their heads half blown away by the impact of the gunfire.
A total of 29 militants were killed and three captured in the siege which ended in a final showdown between special forces and the remaining militants holed up in the sprawling gas complex.
Sellal defended the army's ruthless response to the attack, which he said had been planned over the past two months.
“Initially the security forces... tried negotiating in the hope of appeasing the hostage-takers. But these terrorists were determined. Their demands... were unreasonable and unacceptable,’’ he said.
Eleven of the hostage-takers, who were also demanding an end to French military intervention in Mali, were Tunisian and another three Algerian, with the rest Canadian, Egyptian, Malian, Nigerien and Mauritanian.
Most had entered the country from neighboring Mali, Sellal said, adding the group's leader was Mohamed el-Amine Bencheneb, an Algerian militant known to the country's security services, who was killed in the siege.
Governments have been scrambling to track down missing citizens as more as more harrowing details emerged of the siege.
The alleged mastermind of the hostage-taking, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, said in a video posted online that it was carried out by 40 fighters from the Muslim world and “European countries.’
The special forces managed to free 685 Algerian and 107 foreign hostages, most of them on Thursday, in the first Algerian rescue operation.