Algerian special forces storm gas plant in 'final assault'; 7 hostages, 11 militants dead

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Associated Press

Posted on January 19, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Updated Saturday, Jan 19 at 10:34 AM

AIN AMENAS, Algeria (AP) — Algeria's state news agency says the country's special forces stormed a natural gas complex in the middle of the Sahara desert today in a "final assault" aimed at ending a four-day-old hostage crisis.

The report quotes a security source saying 11 militants and seven hostages were killed. There's no word whether any hostages or militants remained alive. The news agency reports the army was forced to intervene after a fire broke out in the plant.

Algeria's response to the crisis was typical of the country's history in confronting terrorists — military action over negotiation — and caused an international outcry from countries worried about their citizens.

The latest deaths bring the official Algerian tally of dead to 19 hostages and 29 militants, although reports on the number of dead, injured and freed have been contradictory throughout the crisis.

In their final communications, the militants said they were holding seven hostages: three Belgian, two Americans, a Japanese and a Briton. They had threatened to kill them if the Algerian army attacked.

Algerian authorities estimated that about 30 militants occupied the site Wednesday and with 18 already reported dead, it appears the hostage crisis is finally over.

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APPHOTO NYJC102: This Nov. 29, 2012 satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe shows the Amenas Gas Field in Algeria, which is jointly operated by BP and Norway's Statoil and Algeria's Sonatrach. Algerian special forces launched a rescue operation Thursday Jan. 17, 2013 at the plant in the Sahara Desert and freed foreign hostages held by al-Qaida-linked militants. The bloody three-day hostage standoff took a dramatic turn Friday as Algeria's state news service reported that nearly 100 of the 132 foreign workers kidnapped by Islamic militants had been freed. That number of hostages at the remote desert facility was significantly higher than any previous report, but it still left questions about the fate of over 30 other foreign energy workers. (AP Photo/DigitalGlobe) (17 Jan 2013)

<<APPHOTO NYJC102 (01/17/13)>>

APPHOTO DZA106: An ambulance enters the Ain Amenas hospital located near the gas plant where hostages have been kidnapped by islamic militants, Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. The hostage crisis in the remote desert of Algeria is not over, Britain said Friday, after an Algerian raid on the gas plant to wipe out Islamist militants and free their captives from at least 10 countries unleashed bloody chaos. (AP Photo/Anis Belghoul) (18 Jan 2013)

<<APPHOTO DZA106 (01/18/13)>>

APPHOTO LON817: An unidentified rescued hostage receives treatment in a hospital in Ain Amenas, Algeria, in this image taken from television Friday Jan. 18, 2013. Algeria's state news service says nearly 100 out of 132 foreign hostages have been freed from a gas plant where Islamist militants had held them captive for three days. The APS news agency report was an unexpected indication of both more hostages than had previously been reported and a potentially breakthrough development in what has been a bloody siege. (AP Photo/Canal Algerie via Associated Press TV) (asterisk)(asterisk) TV OUT ALGERIA OUT (asterisk)(asterisk) (18 Jan 2013)

<<APPHOTO LON817 (01/18/13)>>

APPHOTO LON815: An unidentified rescued hostage speaks to the media in a hospital in Ain Amenas, Algeria, in this image taken from television Friday Jan. 18, 2013. Algeria's state news service says nearly 100 out of 132 foreign hostages have been freed from a gas plant where Islamist militants had held them captive for three days. The APS news agency report was an unexpected indication of both more hostages than had previously been reported and a potentially breakthrough development in what has been a bloody siege. (AP Photo/Canal Algerie via Associated Press TV) (asterisk)(asterisk) TV OUT ALGERIA OUT (asterisk)(asterisk) (18 Jan 2013)

<<APPHOTO LON815 (01/18/13)>>

APPHOTO LON814: An unidentified rescued hostage speaks to the media in a hospital Ain Amenas, Algeria, in this image taken from television Friday Jan. 18, 2013. Algeria's state news service says nearly 100 out of 132 foreign hostages have been freed from a gas plant where Islamist militants had held them captive for three days. The APS news agency report was an unexpected indication of both more hostages than had previously been reported and a potentially breakthrough development in what has been a bloody siege. (AP Photo/Canal Algerie via Assiaciated Press TV) (asterisk)(asterisk) TV OUT ALGERIA OUT (asterisk)(asterisk) (18 Jan 2013)

<<APPHOTO LON814 (01/18/13)>>

APPHOTO LON813: An unidentified rescued hostage receives treatment in a hospital Ain Amenas, Algeria, in this image taken from television Friday Jan. 18, 2013. Algeria's state news service says nearly 100 out of 132 foreign hostages have been freed from a gas plant where Islamist militants had held them captive for three days. The APS news agency report was an unexpected indication of both more hostages than had previously been reported and a potentially breakthrough development in what has been a bloody siege. (AP Photo/Canal Algerie via Assiaciated Press TV) (asterisk)(asterisk) TV OUT ALGERIA OUT (asterisk)(asterisk) (18 Jan 2013)

<<APPHOTO LON813 (01/18/13)>>

APPHOTO LON812: Rescued hostages hug each other in Ain Amenas, Algeria, in this image taken from television Friday Jan. 18, 2013. Algeria's state news service says nearly 100 out of 132 foreign hostages have been freed from a gas plant where Islamist militants had held them captive for three days. The APS news agency report was an unexpected indication of both more hostages than had previously been reported and a potentially breakthrough development in what has been a bloody siege. (AP Photo/Canal Algerie via Assiaciated Press TV) (asterisk)(asterisk) TV OUT ALGERIA OUT (asterisk)(asterisk) (18 Jan 2013)

<<APPHOTO LON812 (01/18/13)>>

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