As many as eight foreign nationals were kidnapped by Islamist militants from a BP gas installation in the south of Algeria. WSJ’s David Gauthier-Villars and Dow Jones’s James Herron look at the links to the French attack on militants in Mali.
About 40 foreigners were abducted in a raid on the In Amenas gas facility, above. An Islamist group fighting the French in neighboring Mali claimed responsibility for the attack.
Militants with possible links to al Qaeda seized about 40 foreign hostages, including several Americans, at a natural-gas field in Algeria, posing a new level of threat to nations trying to blunt the growing influence of Islamist extremists in Africa.
As security officials in the U.S. and Europe assessed options to reach the captives from distant bases, Algerian security forces failed in an attempt late Wednesday to storm the facility.
A French effort to drive Islamist militants from neighboring Mali that began with airstrikes last week expanded on Wednesday with the first sustained fighting on the ground. France’s top target, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, claimed responsibility for the Algeria kidnappings, calling it retaliation. The claim couldn’t be verified, although AQIM has its origins in Algeria and operates across a swath of Africa.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. would take “necessary and proper steps” in the hostage situation, and didn’t rule out military action. He said the Algeria attack could represent a spillover from Mali.