Little noted in yesterday's attack on an Algerian gas facility was that in addition to roughly 41 foreigners being held hostage there, Islamic militants had also detained nearly 150 Algerian employees who live in housing near the site. On Thursday morning, it was announced that thirty of them had escaped from their captors.
The attack on the installation was claimed to be carried out by members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a large and heavily-armed terrorist group that has launched operations all across the Sahara Desert region, and over the last year has come to take control of most of northern Mali. The group said it was retaliation for France's recent military efforts in Mali, after they sent troops and warplanes to halt the militants advance toward the capital. They are also upset at Algeria, for allowing France to use to their airspace to carry out the operations. Both Mali and Algeria are former French colonies.
The In Amenas gas facility is a joint project between Algeria's state run oil company, Statoil of Norway, and the British oil giant BP. Hundreds of workers live and work at the site, including American, French, British, Irish, and Japanese citizens, who were all reportedly among the hostages.
Mauritania's news service reports that Algeria soldiers attempted to enter the installation last night, but were repelled by the militants who continue to control the entire area. The group had demanded that France end its operations in Mali in exchange for the safe return of the hostages.