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Death Toll May Rise After More Bodies Found At Algerian Plant

By NPR Staff | 01/20/2013

More bodies have been reported found at the gas plant in Algeria where a four-day standoff with Islamist militants came to a bloody end on Saturday. An Algerian security official tells the AP that the state of the bodies makes it difficult to tell whether the dead are hostages or attackers.

The standoff ended Saturday, after Algeria stormed the plant for a second time. As we reported, the Interior Ministry said 32 militants and 23 others had died in the conflict, but that number may now change. Algerian Communications Minister Mohamed Said told the state news agency on Sunday the death toll "may be revised upward," Al Jazeera reports.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday the hostage crisis in Algeria is a "stark reminder" of the threat of terrorism worldwide.

"This is a global threat and it will require a global response," he said.

Algeria initiated the first raid without help or warning, despite offers of support from other nations with hostages involved. As NPR's Jackie Northam reported for Weekend Edition Saturday, Algeria has experience battling terrorism on its own and isn't eager to seek advice from others.

In a brutal civil war during the 1990s between the government and Islamist extremists, up to 200,000 Algerians died, NPR's Eleanor Beardsley tells our Newscast Desk.

"The oil site crisis shows that chapter is not completely closed," she says.

Algeria is also a critical ally of the U.S. in its fight against terrorism, so any frustration about not knowing of the initial raid has been muted, Northam said.

Other world leaders have also come out in support of Algeria. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio network Sunday, "The situation was unbearable," according to Reuters. He continued:

"'It's easy to say that this or that should have been done. The Algerian authorities took a decision and the toll is very high but I am a bit bothered ... when the impression is given that the Algerians are open to question. They had to deal with terrorists.' "

Sunday, Cameron had this to say about Algeria's tactics:

"Now, of course, people will ask questions about the Algerian response to these events, but I would just say the responsibility for these deaths lies squarely with the terrorists who launched this vicious and cowardly attack."
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