One American worker at a natural-gas complex in Algeria has been found dead, U.S. officials said Friday as the Obama administration sought to secure the release of Americans still being held by militants on the third day of the hostage standoff in the Sahara.
How Frederick Buttaccio, a Texas resident, died was not noted in a statement from State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. A spokesman for the Buttaccio family in the Houston suburb of Katy, Texas, declined to comment.
“We express our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” Nuland said. “Out of respect for the family’s privacy, we have no further comment.”
It was not immediately clear whether Buttaccio was the only American killed in the hostage standoff.
U.S. officials told The Associated Press that Buttaccio’s remains were recovered Friday. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she spoke by telephone with Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal to get an update on Americans and others in danger at the sprawling Ain Amenas refinery 800 miles south of Algiers.
Clinton talked to reporters after the Obama administration confirmed that Americans still were being held hostage, even as some U.S. citizens were being flown out of the country for recovery in Europe. The Algerian state news agency reported that 12 hostages had been killed since Wednesday’s start of an Algerian rescue operation, and world leaders steadily increased their criticism of the North African country’s handling of the attack.
Clinton, however, defended Algeria’s action. “Let’s not forget: This is an act of terror,” she told reporters in Washington. “The perpetrators are the terrorists. They are the ones who have assaulted this facility, have taken hostage Algerians and others from around the world as they were going about their daily business.”
Earlier Friday, Algeria’s state news service reported that nearly 100 of the 132 foreign workers kidnapped by Islamic militants were free.