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Some Western governments expressed frustration at not being informed of the Algerian authorities’ plans to storm the complex. Algeria’s response to the raid will have been conditioned by the legacy of a civil war against insurgents in the 1990s which claimed 200,000 lives.
As the army closed in, 16 foreign hostages were freed, a source close to the crisis said. They included two Americans and one Portuguese.
BP’s chief executive Bob Dudley said on Saturday four of its 18 workers at the site were missing. The remaining 14 were safe.
The captors said their attack on the Algerian gas plant was a response to the French offensive in Mali. However, officials say the elaborate raid would have been planned well before France launched its strikes.
Scores of Westerners and hundreds of Algerian workers were inside the heavily fortified gas compound when it was seized on Wednesday.
Hundreds escaped on Thursday when the army launched a rescue operation, but many hostages were killed.
Before the interior ministry released its provisional death toll, an Algerian security source said eight Algerians and at least seven foreigners were among the victims, including two Japanese, two Britons and a French national. One British citizen was killed when the gunmen seized the hostages on Wednesday.
The U.S. State Department said on Friday one American, Frederick Buttaccio, had died but gave no further details.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said nobody was going to attack the United States and get away with it.
“We have made a commitment that we’re going to go after al Qaeda wherever they are and wherever they try to hide,” he said during a visit to London. “We have done that obviously in Afghanistan, Pakistan, we’ve done it in Somalia, in Yemen and we will do it in North Africa as well.”