The terrorists who seized a BP gas plant in Algeria are offering to trade American hostages for the release of Blind Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, 74-year-old mastermind of the deadly 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
The two Americans are among several hostages who remain in the captivity of the militants even after the Algerian government attacked on Thursday with helicopter gunships, killing several militants and as many as 35 hostages, depending on the report.
The group clinging to its hold on the gas plant, located in the Sahara desert at In Amenas, is alternately called Masked Brigade or Battalion of Blood. The alleged mastermind of the raid is the one-eyed Mali-based jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar, known as “Mister Marlboro” for his cigarette-smuggling prowess.
The presumed motive of the terrorists, who snuck through Libya to attack the plant in Algeria, was reprisal for French intervention to suppress the Islamist insurgency in Mali.
Now they’re leveraging their remaining hostages in an attempt to directly engage America with the proposed prisoner-for-hostage swap. They’re also demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist with an MIT degree who’s serving 86 years for attempted murder of FBI agents and American soldiers in Afghanistan. She was painted by the FBI as an al-Qaida operative but never convicted of terrorism.