The tense standoff between the Algerian government and Mali militants blew up this morning as helicopter gunships strafed a Saharan BP gas plant, reportedly killing some 35 hostages and 15 militants. But the body count numbers come from Mauritania’s ANI news agency and have not been confirmed by more reputable news agencies. ANI spoke with militants by phone.
The militants reported that seven hostages survived, including two Americans, three Belgians, one Japanese and one British.
As reported yesterday, the militants took hostages in retaliation for Algeria’s allowing France to use its airspace to attack rebel groups in Mali. At the time, reports on the number of Americans held hostage differed — from three to seven.
Several hostages reportedly escaped or were released before today’s bloodbath. The operation is ongoing.
President Obama had offered American military assistance, which was declined by the Algerian government.
The Islamist terrorist group Masked Brigade — led by the one-eyed terror legend Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has taken credit for seizing the gas plant, and the al-Qaida linked organization is behind the information released to ANI.