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Reports: Death Toll In Algeria At 80
Originally published on Mon January 21, 2013 12:54 pm
Update at 1:50 p.m. ET: Three Americans Were Killed, State Department Says (See Statement Below).
Our original post:
As feared, the reports from Algeria about the number of people killed during last week's hostage crisis at a gas plant are getting grimmer.
Both Reuters and The Associated Press are reporting that at least 80 people were killed either by the Islamist militants who took over the plant or in the Algerian military operation that followed. The breakdown of how many of the dead were hostages and how many were militants isn't yet clear. But Reuters says as many as 48 of the dead may have been workers who were being held by the militants.
NPR's Philip Reeves, who has been monitoring the story from London, tells our Newscast Desk that "Algerian forces are combing through the vast gas complex for explosives and booby traps. Reports say they've found guns, grenades and suicide jackets." During that search, they reportedly found at least 25 bodies over the weekend. One of the dead hostages was an American, according to authorities.
The crisis, which began when militants attacked the plant last Wednesday, ended Saturday when Algerian forces were able to regain control of the facility.
Hundreds of workers at the gas plant were able to escape the militants or were freed by Algerian forces.
Update at 1:50 p.m. ET. Three Americans Killed.
The state department just released this statement from spokeswoman Victoria Nuland:
"We can now confirm the death of three U.S. citizens in the terrorist attack in Algeria: Victor Lynn Lovelady, Gordon Lee Rowan, and Frederick Buttaccio. We extend our deepest condolences to their families and friends. Out of respect for the families' privacy, we have no further comment. We are also aware of seven U.S. citizens who survived the attack. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further information to provide.
"As the president said, the blame for this tragedy rests with the terrorists who carried it out, and the United States condemns their actions in the strongest possible terms. We will continue to work closely with the Government of Algeria to gain a fuller understanding of the terrorist attack of last week and how we can work together moving forward to combat such threats in the future."
Update at 11:38 a.m. ET. 37 Foreign Citizens Killed:
NPR's Eleanor Beardsley tells our Newscast unit that Algerian Prime Minister Abdel Malek Sellal said 37 foreigners from eight different countries had been killed in the attack.
The death toll came after days of silence from the Algerian government. The prime minister said that 32 of the killed were terrorists.
"Many nations with hostages being held were stunned by the sudden and violent assault on the oil site by Algerian special forces last Thursday.
"The prime minister said the 'terrorists' had planned to blow up the facility and take all the foreigners hostage.
"But then the army overheard radio communication in which the leader gave the order to kill all the foreigners.
"He said that's what prompted the quick Algerian army attack.
"Meanwhile, U.S. officials confirmed that two more Americans have been found dead in Algeria, bringing the death toll to three. Seven Americans made it out."