Algeria’s military’s clash with militants leaves many casualties
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — The militants had filled five jeeps with hostages and begun to move when Algerian government attack helicopters opened up on them, leaving four in smoking ruins. The fifth vehicle crashed, allowing an Irish hostage inside to clamber out to safety with an explosive belt still strapped around his neck.
Three days into the crisis at a natural gas plant deep in the Sahara, it remained unclear how many had perished in the faceoff between Africa’s most uncompromising militant group and the region’s most ruthless military.
By Friday, around 100 of the 135 foreign workers on the site had been freed and 18 of an estimated 30 kidnappers had been slain, according to the Algerian government, still leaving a major hostage situation centered on the plant’s main refinery.
The government said 12 workers, both foreign and Algerian, were confirmed dead. But the extremists have put the number at 35. And the government attack today on the convoy — as pieced together from official, witness and news media accounts — suggested the death toll could go higher.
In Washington, U.S. officials said one American — a Texan — was known to have died.