In this kind of situation, national interest takes precedence and it is the
country’s supreme authorities who will judge whether to authorise or not
authorise such action.

20.10 Duncan Gardham has built
up a strong profile of Mokhtar Belmokhtar and the brigade
that were
responsible for the attack.

The raid is thought to have been led by Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri, a field
commander close to Belmokhtar who is thought to be among the 32 dead
militants.

Nigeri was a fighter from one of the Arab tribes in Niger who had joined
the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) in early-2005,
according to Mauritanian news reports.

The GSPC joined up with al-Qaeda to form al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
(AQIM) in 2006 and has now spread across North Africa and the Sahara region
known as the Sahel.

Belmokhtar’s fighters launched their dawn attack five days after French
jets began strikes to halt advances by AQIM fighters in neighbouring Mali
but the plan is thought to be too elaborate to have been concocted in such a
short time.

19.54 Up
to five of the al Qaeda-linked Islamists who carried out the most
spectacular and bloody hostage 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,
sources have told The 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 terrorists are reported to have known internal procedures at the plant as
well as the room numbers of expatriates.

19.36 For those of you who missed Alan Wright’s interview earlier
today, here is the video of the health and safety adviser reliving his
terrifying 24 hours.

19.31 Ali Whiteside, the daughter of Kenneth Whiteside, has left a
moving tribute to her father on Twitter, as well as to any of those that
might have lost a loved one in the siege.

18.58 12 bodies being held at the morgue at In Amenas hospital, where
victims of the crisis were taken, are Japanese, a hospital source has
told the AFP news agency.

Tokyo has said it has had no confirmation of the fate of 10 of its nationals
who remain unaccounted for.

18.52 In BP’s latest statement, the group says at the time of the
attack there were 18 employees at In Amenas. 14 of them are safe and secure,
with two of them sustaining injuries that are not life threatening.

They are “gravely concerned” however about four of its employees who
are missing.

18.44 An Algerian television station has
broadcast what it said was a tape recording
of one of the hostage-takers
at the Ain Amenas gas plant talking to a member of Algeria’s special forces,
and another recording in which he threatens to blow up the complex.

Ennahar TV identified the militant speaking on the recordings as Islamist
militant leader Abdel Rahman el-Nigeri.

In it, Nigeri demands the release of a number of imprisoned terrorists in
return for releasing foreign hostages.

Here is a bit of the transcript:

Abdel Rahman el-Nigeri: “We want the prisoners you have. Our
comrades who were arrested and imprisoned 15 years ago. We want 100 of them.”

Army Officer: “How many?”

Nigeri: “One hundred, one hundred.”

Army Officer: “Ok, continue, continue.”

Nigeri: “We are prepared to die. Either we get our brothers out or
we die.”

Army Officer: “I shall pass on your demands to the leadership.”

Nigeri: “I would like to talk to you face to face. Did you hear
me? I want to talk to you face to face.”

Army Officer: “Shall I come to the factory in centre number one?
Or tell me the place and I shall come to you.”

Nigeri: “I have spoken to the British but they are far away (from
a solution). They have contacted Mali and (militant leader Moktar)
Belmokhtar. Do you understand? If we talk directly it is easier for me.”

18.21 Meanwhile, an interesting piece from the Washington
Post
about drones and America’s
use of them in the attempt to take on al-Qaeda
.

The CIA’s campaign of lethal drone strikes against the organisation is to be
exempted from new rules on the use of targeted killings being drawn up in
Washington.

Peter Foster, our US editor explains:


The CIA has greatly increased up its drone strikes in Afghanistan, partly by
loosening the criteria for strikes from having clear intelligence about the
identity of targets, to relying on patterns of behaviour or vehicle
movements – so-called ‘signature strikes’.

The exemption is being driven by concern that the window for weakening
al-Qaeda in the region is closing.

18.15 Some hostages were quoted by France’s l’Express
magazine as saying the kidnappers knew “internal procedures, the room
numbers of expatriates, and they attacked the BP and JGC (the Japanese
company) bases, the only ones where there were foreigners.”

All this suggested, one hostage is quoted as saying, that they benefited from “inside
complicity
“.

18.04 Youcef Yousfi, Algeria’s oil minister, has hit out at suggestions
that foreigners will be allowed to secure its oil facilities – short answer
– they won’t be allowed.

Quote
It is out of the question to allow foreign security forces to handle the
security of our oil facilities.

17.19 France’s Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has described
the hostage-taking in Algeria and its bloody aftermath as an “act of
war,” AFP reports.

“What strikes me the most is that we’re saying ‘hostage-taking’ but when
there are so many people concerned, I think this is an act of war,” he
said on France 5 television.

17.09 This in from AP: an Algerian security official says bomb
squads scouring the gas plant where the hostage siege ended yesterday have
found 25 more bodies.

The state of some of the bodies discovered Sunday is making it difficult to
tell whether the dead were hostages or the attackers, the official said. He
spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

It is unclear at this point how this grim discovery tallies with the 25 bodies
of hostages and 32 bodies of militants reported earlier.

16.29 Jim Roberts, one of the New York Times’s most prolific Twitter
presences, updates us on the aftermath of events for the Japanese contingent
of the hostages.

16.25 Five of the kidnappers were captured alive at the plant, and three
are on the run, according to AFP.

16.19 Jonathan Rugman of Channel 4 News cites Algerian media in
detailing the nationalities of 30 of the 32 militants involved.

15.52 AFP reports a second Romanian national taken hostage by
Islamist gunmen in Algeria has died of his injuries in an Algerian hospital,
citing the Romanian foreign ministry.

15.23 “There
are worse places in the world to work”

Alan Wright, a 37-year-old health and safety adviser for BP from
Portsoy, Scotland, has been telling Sky News how he fortuitously avoided
capture by turning up to work early on Wednesday.

Mr Wright was not in the living quarters of the In Amenas gas plant when the
terrorists’ attack began, and was alerted to the presence of the militants
on the site by colleagues, who said they could be disguised as gendarmes or
security guards.

From before 9am on Wednesday until 5am the following morning, Mr Wright sat
huddled in an office with taped-over windows as the capture of the complex
by militants directed by Mokhtar Belmokhtar went on around him. He
escaped through a wire fence to safety with colleagues.

Mr Wright said he would not rule out returning to Algeria, stoically adding: “There
are worse places in the world to work.”

Alan Wright on Sky News/SKY

15.07 Our Chief Reporter Gordon Rayner has sent through this
report on the deceased Scottish project planner Kenneth Whiteside, killed in
the hostage siege at In Amenas.

Friends of Kenneth Whiteside, 59, originally from Glenrothes, Fife, and
now based in South Africa, took to Facebook to express their grief over his “senseless
murder”.

Mr Whiteside’s wife Catherine and daughters Nova-Leigh and Ali, who live in
Johannesburg, declined to speak with media and asked for privacy.

Stewart Goodwin, a fellow Scot living in Johannesburg, wrote on Facebook
yesterday: “Lost a dear friend in Algeria today. He was the quietest
and humble man you will ever know. He leaves behind two great daughters and
a wonderful wife. How will we understand this.”

Mr Goodwin added: “My heartfelt condolences go to the family and
friends who are trying to come to terms with this senseless murder. May God
have mercy on your soul.”

“Our friend Kenny murdered in Algeria,” wrote South African
friend Lorraine Saunders. “Don’t know what else to say.”

“Kenny was a very nice person and we’re glad we met him,” said
Billy Hunter from Scotland. “We’ll always remember him and his
bagpipes. I hope the scumbags who carried out this terrible act got what was
coming to them!”

14.50 This tweet from the Foreign Office confirms the 22 British
hostages who escaped alive are back in the UK.

But what of the fate of the others unaccounted for last night? As we reported
earlier, electrical specialist Frank Dobson was not present at the plant,
contrary to previous reports. He is safe and well, according to family.

The other five British nationals and one British resident held
hostage were as follows:

• Kenneth Whiteside, 59, from Glenrothes, Scotland – friends now
believe Mr Whiteside was killed at In Amenas
• David Murray, 47, from Kirkby, Liverpool – is alive and
at home
• Barry Lawson: from St Andrews, Scotland – still unconfirmed
• Garry Barlow: 49, from Liverpool – still unconfirmed
• Colombian BP employee Carlos Estrada – confirmed dead
• An unnamed British national – still unconfirmed

13.59 Mokhtar Belmokhtar is “ready to negotiate” with Algeria
and the West on the condition they stop bombing Islamist-held North Mali,
Mauritania’s Sahara Media news agency claims.

Our
profile of the “veteran, one-eyed jihadist-cum-gangster”

by Diplomatic Correspondent Alex Spillius analyses how a cigarette
smuggler known as “Mr Marlboro” became the most prominent
terrorist in Africa, leading tens of men to attack the gas plant in In
Amenas, Algeria, last Wednesday.

13.43 More detail on the nine Japanese hostages executed over the
course of the four-day stand-off between Masked Brigade terrorists
and the Algerian security forces.

One Algerian witness identified only as ‘Brahim’ told AFP today of the
following sequence of events:

Wednesday: Three Japanese workers killed as they try to escape from a
bus taking them to the airport as the militant attack unfolds

Thursday: The gunmen take six others to the residential compound, where
they have seized hundreds of hostages. ‘Brahim’ recounted how a terrorist
shouted “open the door!” with a strong north American accent, and
opened fire. Two more Japanese killed.

Saturday: Brahim and his colleagues find the bodies of the remaining
four Japenese hostages in the compound where they were being held as the
siege ends.

He added the terrorists appeared to have inside knowledge of the plant’s
structure, telling AFP: “They were aware of all of our procedures.”
The Japanese firm JCG says ten of its Japanese workers are still missing.

In Tokyo, a foreign ministry official said: “We are in a position not to
comment on this kind of information at all. Please understand.”

13.37 Reports yesterday that Kevin Dobson, an electrical
specialist, was caught up in the events at In Amenas were mistaken, BP has
informed The Telegraph on behalf of his family.

Mr Dobson was not present at the time of the attack on Wednesday by the Masked
Brigade
, the Islamic militant group linked to Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb
(AQIM).

13.22 The French foreign ministry has said that nationals who are in
the Northern African zone affected must be aware of the potential threats
they are facing.

Quote
French nationals who are in the zone (of action of AQIM – from Mauritania to
Niger via northern Mali), must know that their freedom and their lives are
explicitly and directly threatened.

12.59 The Algeria hostage taking is “Europe’s September 11,”
claimed Asiem El-Difraoui, a Middle East expert with the Berlin
Institute for Media and Communication Studies today.

“It is a huge coup, as big as September 11 for Europe,” he told
French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche. Algerian jihadist Mokhtar
Belmokhtar was the “main winner” in the hostage taking, he added.

“He didn’t even need to stage manage the event, as Westerners took charge
of that.

“So it was an operation that he won on all fronts.”

12.37 More bad news: nine Japanese were executed by terrorists,
my colleague Henry Samuel confirms.

12.30 This image of a shellshocked freed Norwegian hostage, Oddvar
Birkedal
, was taken yesterday at In Amenas police station. Five
Norwegians are still missing, while eight are safe, Norwegian Prime Minister
Jens Stoltenberg confirmed in his most recent statement.

REUTERS/Louafi Larbi

12.10 One of the most significant elements of the Prime Minister’s
statement earlier today was his focus on the geopolitical implications for
the West.

He vowed to use Britain’s chairmanship of the G8 to ensure terrorism in the
Maghreb and West Africa took centre stage in Britain’s diplomatic efforts.

These are the key quotes (my bold):

QuoteThis is a global threat and it will require a global response. It
will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months
.

It requires a response that is patient and painstaking, that is tough but
also intelligent, but above all has an absolutely iron resolve and that is
what we will deliver over these coming years.

What we face is an extremist, Islamist, al Qaida-linked terrorist group. Just
as we had to deal with that in Pakistan and in Afghanistan
so the world
needs to come together to deal with this threat in north Africa.

It is linked to al Qaida, it wants to destroy our way of life, it believes
in killing as many people as it can. We need to work with others to defeat
the terrorists and to close down the ungoverned spaces where they thrive
with all the means that we have.

Cameron hinting at a sustained response to Al-Qaeda’s allies in
Africa earlier

11.55 Journalist Trond Sundnes sends us this incredible story
from Norway’s VG newspaper of an escapee from the Statoil gas plant who
trekked for 15 hours in a party of eight, having escaped from the heavily
armed hostagetakers.

The unnamed 57-year-old from Bergen in Norway went by foot 15 hours through
the desert to get to safety, after deciding to escape Thursday night. He had
been trapped at the plant since it was beseiged on Wednesday morning.

Together with seven other people he headed to the town of In Amenas, situated
nearly five miles east of the gas plant. The party spent 15 hours going
through the harsh desert landscape in southern Algeria, according to VG.

The man was severely dehydrated and exhausted when he reached the city late on
Friday night, and received medical attention at a hospital when he had
arrived. Just before midnight he notified his family that he was alive.

11.47 An update from our Paris correspondent Henry Samuel, on
the distressing news of an updated death toll of 25 hostages.

Twenty five bodies were found charred at the Ain Amenas site after
terrorrists set a part of the plant on fire, sparking an explosion. The
factory is on a 4km dead end road whose only function is to link the living
quarters with the plant. The Algerians first attacked the living quarters,
then the plant.

When the Algerians launched their first assault on Thursday, the terrorists
rushed to their cars with some hostages as they thought the army wouldn’t
open fire. These hostage takers never made it to the plant as army
helicopters opened fire on them. Some hostages managed to escape in the
confusion.

In all 34 hostages were in the living quarters.

After having “mopped up” the living quarters, the Algerian army
focused on the plant and the second group of terrorists.

A second assault on Friday evening freed 7 Britons and 4 Japanese. There is
precious little detail on the final assault as there are no survivors among
hostages or terrorists.

11.30 Terrible news from AFP: 25 bodies of hostages have been
found inside the Algeria gas plant, confirming a statement from Algeria’s
Minister of Communication Mohamed Said, who said the death toll would rise
today from 23. “I am afraid unfortunately to say that the death toll
will go up,” Said told the official APS news agency earlier.

11.08 Some amateur footage broadcast on Algerian television yesterday
and acquired by the Associated Press purports to show the aftermath of the
standoff with Islamic extremists at the Ain Amenas gas plant in the Sahara
desert, filmed by one of the freed hostages.

Dead bodies (blurred for viewers by the Ennhar TV channel) are visible in the
footage, which it was not possible to independently verify.

10.57 France’s foreign minister Laurence Fabius has also
defended Algeria’s handling of the hostage crisis, saying the death toll in
an assault on the hostage-takers was “very high” but authorities
had faced an “intolerable situation”.

QuoteWhat everyone needs to know is that these terrorists who attacked this gas
plant are killers who pillage, rape, plunder and kill. The situation was
unbearable
, Fabius said.

It’s easy to say that this or that should have been done. The Algerian
authorities took a decision and the toll is very high but I am a bit
bothered … when the impression is given that the Algerians are open to
question. They had to deal with terrorists
,” he told Europe
1 radio
in an interview.

10.42 Hague added that suggestions seven of the hostages had been “executed”
by their captors prior to the final battle could be true.

“That sort of thing is quite likely to have happened,” he said.

He also said the Algerian army believed the hostages were in “imminent
danger” as he sought to justify the loss of life at the gas complex.

QuoteCertainly, the Algerians believed that the lives of the hostages were
always in imminent danger, that the terrorists were planning blow up the
entire installation. This is one of the reasons why they acted as they did.

They decided, as a sovereign country, that was something on their soil that
they would deal with and they needed to deal with urgently.

William Hague on the Andrew Marr show this morning

10.40 Foreign Secretary William Hague was on the Andrew Marr
show this morning, and said there were 22 British nationals who had survived
the attack and were now back in the UK.

“We brought them back and BP brought others back on chartered flights
during the night so they are being reunited with their loved ones,” he
said.

09.40 Death toll of 23 may rise, Algeria warns. Communications minister Mohamed
Said
tells Channel 3 radio: “I fear it may be revised upwards.”

09.35 Mr Cameron, speaking from Chequers, says:

QuoteWhen you are dealing with a terrorist incident on this scale with up to 30
terrorists it is extremely difficult to respond and get this right in every
respect.

This is a stark reminder, once again, of the threat we face from terrorism
the world over.

Algeria security forces escort a bus carrying freed hostages outside a
police station in In Amenas (AFP/Getty Images)

09.20 David Cameron says priority is to get surviving hostages home
from Algeria as he condemns “vicious and cowardly” attack.

QuoteI know the whole country will want to join me in sending our sympathies
and condolences to the families who have undergone an absolutely dreadful
ordeal, and now face life without these very precious loved ones.

The priority now must be to get everybody home from Algeria, in terms of
this incident, and I have spoken this morning to our ambassador, who is in
Algiers, and this morning will be going again to the south of the country to
help coordinate that absolutely vital activity.

Now of course people will ask questions about the Algerian response to
these events, but I would just say that the responsibility for these deaths
lies squarely with the terrorists who launched a vicious and cowardly attack.

09.05 David Cameron says three British nationals have died and three
more
are feared dead.

The Prime Minister says a UK resident has also been killed in
the four day stand-off in the desert which reached its dramatic conclusion
yesterday.

09.03 Islamist extremists “executed” seven hostages yesterday
before a final, bloody assault by the Algerian army ended a four-day siege
in the desert.

Algeria’s special forces stormed the gas complex, jointly run by BP and
staffed by many British workers, after reports that the extremists had begun
shooting foreigners they had kidnapped.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said five Britons and one UK resident,
called Carlos Estrada, remained “unaccounted for” and the country
had to “prepare for bad news”. One Briton had already been confirmed dead on
Wednesday.

These are the first chilling images of oil workers surrendering to Al-Qaeda
gunman:

BP said last night that four of its employees were still missing several hours
after a dramatic firefight inside the gas plant which left more than 30
terrorists dead. The Algerian foreign ministry said that during the course
of four days 23 hostages and 32 militants had been killed.

In a series of further developments, it also emerged yesterday that:

• A British worker was forced at gunpoint to persuade other Britons out
from their hiding place, and was then executed himself;
• 15 charred bodies were discovered by Algerian troops who stormed the
complex;
• Terrorists tried to blow up the plant in a suicide attack before being
killed by Algerian special forces;
• Booby trap mines were planted by the militants to try to prevent their
capture;
• American drones were drafted in as an international manhunt was stepped up
for the fanatic behind the siege.

The final assault on the gas processing complex began in the middle of
yesterday morning, ending a hiatus of almost 48 hours after the first
attempt by Algerian forces to overpower the terrorists.

Security sources said the al-Qaeda militants’ last stand had been in a factory
or workshop area of the Tigantourine gas plant, which they had held since
Wednesday.

The group of about 40 men from the Masked Brigade, also known as Witnesses in
Blood, had captured foreign workers in a residential area of the sprawling
complex before being cornered in the main plant, about two miles away.

After a two-day stand-off, Algeria’s special forces – known as the Ninjas –
launched a final assault. Reports suggested they had reacted to gunfire and
the execution of prisoners although it may also be they lost patience.

A security source said: “The assault took place mid-morning. Eleven terrorists
lost their lives along with the foreign hostages. We think they were killed
in retaliation.”


Above is a picture of two freed British hostages identified as Peter
(centre) and Alan (left) standing with an unidentified
Norwegian
hostage outside a police station in In Amenas.


Survivor Stephen McFaul told how he had Semtex strapped to his neck,
which his kidnappers had threatened to detonate if there was any rescue
attempts (Photo:Reuters)


Some of the luckier British hostages that managed to escape are seen here
on a local television station. (Photo:AFP)


British survivor Mark Gran texted his wife Emma to tell her he was safe
and well

09.00 Good morning and welcome to live coverage of events following the
bloody denouement of the Algerian hostage crisis.

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