Algeria gas plant attack

A look back at the hostage standoff through the stories of survivors and a victim's family

CBC News Last Updated: January 16, 2014

On January 16, 2013, an al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group called the Signers in Blood Battalion took more than 800 people hostage at the Tigantourine gas plant near In Amenas, Algeria, in an attack aimed at foreigners and expats. The remote facility, which produces 10% of the country's natural gas, housed 790 Algerian and 134 foreign workers from 26 countries.

After a tense four-day hostage standoff, Algerian special forces raided the facility in an effort to free the hostages. More than 80 people, including at least 39 foreign workers were killed in the violence. The deadly attack, allegedly masterminded by rogue Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, was a retaliation for Algeria's support of the French miiltary offensive against Islamist insurgents in neighbouring Mali.


 
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Nick Frazier

American hostage - Attacked on Bus

Nick Frazier (CBC) Runs 3:22 Frazier worked for BP at In Amenas for six years. As the attack began, he was trapped on a bus on the main road to In Amenas under heavy gunfire for nearly three hours. He exchanged text messages with his wife during the attack, giving her occasional updates.

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Victor Lovelady

American hostage Victor Lovelady - Taken in Living Quarters

Victor's brother Mike Lovelady (CBC) Runs 4:04 Victor Lovelady was tied up and placed in a courtyard within the area of the living quarters, along with many other foreigners. His brother Mike tells us Victor died later in a convoy of vehicles driven by the militants heading toward the gas plant facility, when their SUV was shot down either by the Algerian army, or blown up by a militant with a suicide bomb.

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"Mohammed"

Algerian Hostage - Taken in Living Quarters

Algerian hostage (CBC) Runs 3:04 A local Algerian worker, who agreed to talk to us from Algiers with a hidden identity - "Mohammed" is not his real name - was discouraged from speaking to the media. Along with hundreds of other Algerians, he was rounded up in the living quarters. Unlike foreign hostages, they were allowed to roam freely in that area. Mohammed was eventually allowed to leave the plant and was rescued by the Algerian military.

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Cris Castro

American hostage - Mistaken for Algerian

Cris Castro (CBC) Runs 4:20 Castro, an American electrical engineer working for BP, was also caught in the living quarters area, but managed to pass himself off as Algerian. Along with other Algerians, he left the plant the day after the attack began and was rescued by the Algerian army.

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Joseph "Jojo" Balmaceda

Filipino Hostage - Taken in Living Quarters & Survived Suicide Bomb

Joseph Balmaceda (CBC) Runs 1:23 Balmaceda was a Filipino contract worker for BP and spent eight years at the In Amenas gas plant. He was taken hostage and tied up, seated near a fountain in the living quarters area, then placed in one of the SUVs along with other hostages and militants. As one of the militants set off a suicide bomb and blew up the vehicle, Balmaceda amazingly survived the explosion and walked away.

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Stephen McFaul

Irish hostage - Close Contact with Canadian Militant

Stephen McFaul (CBC) Runs 3:22 Stephen McFaul was working at the Amenas plant as an electrical engineer. He and two other men were found hiding in a shower cubicle. Eventually, he was put in an SUV with Canadian militant Xris Katsiroubas, who had a bomb in his lap and the detonator in his hand. When the vehicle crashed, McFaul escaped while Katsiroubas attempted to detonate the bomb.

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The Canadian Connection

VIDEO: A trio of Canadians' path to radicalization | Xristos Katsiroubas, Ali Medlej and Aaron Yoon have been identified as the young Canadian militants involved in the attack. (CP)Runs 9:11 Two of the al-Qaeda linked young Canadian militants involved in the attack at the Algerian gas plant were former high school friends Xristos Katsiroubas, 22, from a Greek Orthodox family and Ali Medlej, 24, both from a comfortable middle-class neighbourhood in London, Ont. Sources say it is likely that they intentionally blew themselves up during the raid; one of them could be identified only by DNA testing.

Another Canadian, Aaron Yoon, is currently in a Mauritanian jail. He was arrested in December 2011 on charges of belonging to an illegal organization and sentenced to two years in prison.

Ryan Enderi, also known as Mujahid, a Libyan-Canadian from southwestern Ontario, is also being sought for possible extremist connections. Enderi is believed to have travelled overseas at around the same time as the three other young men from the same London, Ont. community.

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In Pictures

(AP Photo) Explore galleries of photos secretly taken by hostages during the siege; images of the destruction in the aftermath, as the Algerian government shows the site of the hostage crisis to journalists for the first time after the incident; and snapshots of its effects around the world as nations mourn their victims.

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Hostage drama in the desert

CBC's The National spoke to some of the former hostages and the family of a victim involved in the Tigantourine incident. Watch the video interviews and follow their stories as they recount their harrowing experiences during the attack on the Algerian gas plant.

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