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Britain, Algeria working 'closely' on hostage crisis

18 january 2013, 14:29
0
British Foreign Secretary William Hague (R) and Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr. ©AFP
British Foreign Secretary William Hague (R) and Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr. ©AFP
Britain is working "very closely at all levels" with Algeria after one of its citizens was reportedly killed and several others seized during an attack on an Algerian gas field, AFP reports according to the Foreign Secretary William Hague.

The minister, speaking in Sydney, said the ongoing crisis at the southern gas field was "extremely dangerous", but would not confirm Algerian Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia's report that one Briton and an Algerian had been killed.

"A number of people are held hostage. This does include a number of British nationals. This is therefore an extremely dangerous situation," Hague said.

"We are in close touch with the Algerian government, the Algerian military have deployed to the area and the prime minister has spoken to the prime minister of Algeria.

"We are liaising very closely at all levels of the Algerian government."

Hague also confirmed that the Foreign Office had sent a rapid deployment team to reinforce British embassy and consular staff in Algeria.

"We will give more details as it becomes possible to do so but obviously it is a very dangerous situation and we cannot give out details very lightly. We will keep people informed," he said.

An Islamist group, who said they entered Algeria from northern Mali, told Mauritanian media they were holding 41 Westerners, among them French, British and Japanese citizens, as well as seven Americans, at the In Amenas gas field.

In a statement posted on Mauritanian website Alakhbar, the group said the kidnapping was in retaliation for the French military intervention against Islamist rebels who seized control of northern Mali in April last year.

The statement demanded an end to "the crusade being waged by French forces in Mali".

The gas field is jointly operated by British oil giant BP, Norway's Statoil and state-run Algerian energy firm Sonatrach.

Hague said BP was doing "a good job" of keeping families up to date with developments and vowed to "work around the clock to resolve this crisis."

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