Taking down the remaining Algerian terrorist
It was mid-morning yesterday when Algeria’s special forces – known as “the Ninjas” – launched their final, fatal assault. The result was perhaps inevitable – a terrible bloodbath on the ground ending in the deaths of seven foreign hostages as well as 11 of the kidnappers.
The Algerian military had already proved itself trigger-happy when 48 hours earlier – and without the knowledge of Britain or any other Western government – army helicopters had opened fire on a fleet of 4x4s speeding through the Tigantourine gas facility, killing terrorists and hostages indiscriminately.
By yesterday morning, the rump of the heavily-armed Islamist militants had retreated from the accommodation blocks to the main gas complex itself about two miles away. Reports suggested that they had holed up in a machine room with a reported 23 hostages being used as human shields.
The situation was desperate. The Algerian authorities had refused to negotiate with the terrorist group, known variously as the Masked Brigade or Witnesses in Blood. Its leader on the ground was named yesterday as Abdul Rahman al Nigeri, an Arab from neighbouring Niger also known as Abu Dujana. Abdul Rahman had led about 40 fighters over the border from either Libya or Niger to the outskirts of the plant on Wednesday morning, where the onslaught began.
Seventy-two hours later, Rahman and 10 of his men had barricaded themselves into the machine room with a cache of weapons, including rocket launchers, grenades, machine guns and explosives. They had with them hostages from Britain, the US, Germany, Romania and Portugal.
What happened next remained unclear last night but details can be pieced together from the various sketchy reports. Whatever the truth, the outcome was carnage. Some 16 hostages – including two Americans, two Germans and one Portuguese – were freed but a further seven were left dead, either executed in cold blood by the terrorists or else mown down in the fire fight. “The assault took place mid-morning. Eleven terrorists lost their lives along with the foreign hostages,” an Algerian security source told AFP news agency. “We think they were killed in retaliation.”
Official sources told Algeria’s El Watan newspaper, a journal known for its close contact with the country’s feared secret services, that the terrorists had tried to set fire to the gas facility’s installations on Friday night. That had failed and the small fires, which had broken out, had been brought under control.
It was a last throw of the dice as they realised their series of demands – for the release of Islamist terrorists in the US, the removal of French troops from neighbouring Mali and a request for safe passage – went ignored.
A few hours later, Algerian special forces stormed the gas plant, believing that the kidnappers had begun executing some of the 23 remaining hostages. Their original plan, it is suggested, was to take the hostages out of the area and into the Sahara, where they could hide out for years if necessary.
“On Saturday morning, the terrorists had lost all hope of leaving the facility with the last seven hostages and had begun to execute some of the hostages, forcing the Algerian special forces to intervene,” El Watan reported on its website. “In fact the terrorists were preparing for an act of collective suicide.
“The intervention from elements of special forces led to the death of the terrorists. Unfortunately the hostages had already been executed.” Algeria’s special forces have a reputation for cold-blooded ruthlessness. The country has one rapid reaction division, divided into four parachute regiments and one special forces regiment, highly experienced and battle-hardened, according to experts, after years fighting Islamist counter-insurgents.
...Algeria's refusal to deal thwarted the terrorist and left their situation ever more desperate. The Algerian Ninjas would offer no mercy to the merciless group. Their audacious plan left them as complete failures and will probably mean even harsher treatment for the followers of the group. The war criminals who took and killed hostages got the punishment they deserved. In Mali more of their compatriots await a similar fate.