Frantic efforts to discover details
REACTION:Governments of people caught up in the Algerian hostage crisis were making frantic efforts last night to find out precisely what happened at the desert refinery when the Algerian military and the hostage takers attacked each other with precisely unknown but bloody consequences.
Foreigners among the hostages include five Americans, up to 10 Britons, Belgians, Japanese, Norwegians, Malaysians and an Irishman, Stephen McFaul, who escaped unharmed yesterday. A second Northern Ireland man with a British passport was also reported to have been among the hostages.
Last night it was unclear how many of them, and how many Algerian refinery workers and hostage takers, had died.
“It is a very dangerous, a very uncertain, a very fluid situation and I think we have to prepare ourselves for the possibility of bad news ahead,” British prime minister David Cameron told the BBC as he cancelled a planned visit today to the Netherlands.
At least one Briton was dead, said Mr Cameron.
Earlier, both he and the French president, François Hollande, expressed confidence in the capabilities of the Algerian authorities to handle the hostage crisis effectively. But by mid-afternoon, that confidence had turned to dust.
Mr Cameron had asked his Algerian counterpart to keep him informed and was only told of the assault against the hostage takers when he rang him before noon and was told that the operation was already under way.
The assault was said to have alarmed the Japanese government so much that it asked in vain for it to be stopped.
Mr Hollande comforted himself with the thought that events in Algeria confirmed the wisdom of France’s intervention in Mali. “What is happening in Algeria provides further evidence that my decision to intervene in Mali was justified,” he said.