AIN AMENAS, Algeria (AP) — It appears that the hostage crisis at a gas plant is finally over.
Algeria’s special forces on Saturday stormed the natural gas complex in the middle of the Sahara desert in a “final assault” aimed at ending a four-day-old hostage crisis, the state news agency reported. It said 11 militants and seven hostages were killed.
The report didn’t say whether any hostages or militants remained alive, and it didn’t give the nationalities of the dead. It said the army was forced to intervene after a fire broke out in the plant.
Casualty figures have varied widely. The Algerian government now says 19 hostages and 29 militants have died since Thursday.
The siege at the Ain Amenas plant, jointly run by BP, Norway’s Statoil and Algeria’s state-owned oil company, transfixed the world after radical Islamists stormed the complex, which contained hundreds of plant workers from all over the world.
Algeria’s response to the crisis was typical of the country’s history in confronting terrorists — military action over negotiation.
The militants attacked the plant Wednesday morning. They crept across the border from Libya, 60 miles away, and fell on a pair of buses taking foreign workers to the airport.
The buses’ military escort drove off the attackers in a blaze of gunfire that sent bullets zinging over the heads of crouching workers.