Entries in Hostages (12)


Nigerian Militant Group Kills Seven Foreign Hostages

iStockphoto-Thinkstock(BAUCHI, Nigeria) -- The Nigerian Islamist militant group Ansaru said in an online statement posted on Saturday that it had killed seven foreign hostages it seized in January.

According to BBC News, Western governments believe the claim is credible.

The hostages were working on a construction site in the northern state of Bauchi when Ansaru captured them. They hailed from Italy, Britain, Greece and Lebanon.

Ansaru said the hostages had been killed in response to a British and Nigerian rescue attempt, though the Italian government denies that there was any attempt to rescue hostages conducted by any of the concerned governments.

The Italian government added that the group's actions "can have no explanation other than blind and barbaric violence."

Ansaru, whose full name translates as "Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa," has proven itself to be quite a threat even though it is a relatively young organization, having just been founded in January of 2012.

Ansaru is suspected of being an offshoot of the Boko Haram network, and is listed by the UK government as a "terrorist organisation" aligned with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, according to BBC News.

Ansaru said it had carried out the raid in January as revenge for what it called atrocities by European nations against Islam.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Rep. Rogers: US Knew 'Something Big' Was Coming Before Algeria Crisis

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said that before the deadly Algerian hostage crisis, the U.S. had several reports that "something big" was coming against a Western target -- but did not have the details the government needed to prevent it.

"Just like the Benghazi event, we had lots of threat streams...There are reports coming in from all different types of sources saying, 'Something big is going to happen,'" Rep. Mike Rogers (R.-Mich.) told ABC News on Sunday.  "We didn't know for sure, for certain it would be this particular place under those circumstances, but we knew that they were trying to find a...Western target, which this clearly was."

Roger's comments came a day after the Algerian military forced a bloody end to the four-day hostage crisis at a BP joint-venture facility in the Sahara on Saturday.  Nearly all the terrorists and at least 23 hostages were killed, including one American.  Several Americans managed to escape the facility alive, but the fate of two others remains unknown.

Late Sunday, a video emerged that was reportedly shot during the crisis in which the leader of the terrorists, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, claimed the "blessed" hostage taking as a victory for al Qaeda and said it was done to force the West to abandon the recent French-led military intervention in Mali.  The group also previously demanded that the U.S. release Omar Abdel-Rahman, the man who planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Before the Algerian counter-attack, one of the hostage-takers, Abdel Rahman el-Nigeri, reportedly singled out the Americans at the facility for "slaughter" should the terrorists not get what they wanted.

"The Americans that are here, we will kill them," el-Nigeri said, according to an audio tape aired on Algeria's Ennahar TV.  "We will slaughter them."

Survivors said the attackers focused on Americans and other foreigners, and one of the captors spoke excellent English.  Many of the terrorists were dressed as security guards, making the decision to run for it difficult.

"When you don't know what's out there," said survivor Alan Wright, "and we know that the terrorists are dressed the same as the security forces, that was a huge decision.  Do you stay or do you go?"

"For our people in Algeria, for their family and friends, this has been and continues to be a distressing and horrific time," said BP chief executive Bob Dudley.

On Monday, a spokesperson for Belmokhtar's group reportedly told London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Alawsat that despite the terrorists killed and no public concession concerning Mali, he considered the operation "successful by all standards."

Successful or not, Rogers said the incident was evidence of a real national security threat that has emerged from al Qaeda in North Africa.

"Clearly this is a growing threat in the region.  They feel emboldened," he said, citing the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012.  "It can't just be Algeria. It has to be the whole northern Africa region and it needs to be a cohesive policy that is well-coordinated that covers all the different problems that we're finding in northern Africa... It really is naive to believe this isn't getting worse."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Algerian Hostage Crisis: Reported Tape of Terrorists Emerges

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Algerian TV has broadcast what it says is audiotape of terrorists at the In Amenas gas plant threatening to blow up the facility and "slaughter" U.S. hostages unless 100 imprisoned "comrades" are released, and also claiming that the hostages have been forced to wear bombs.

The recordings that aired on Algeria's Ennahar TV were made before the four-day hostage crisis at the BP joint venture facility in the Sahara ended with nearly all terrorists and at least 23 hostages dead.

"The Americans that are here, we will kill them," says Abdel Rahman el-Nigeri, a leader of the al Qaeda-linked terrorists who held the plant, in Arabic. "We will slaughter them."

A second person, identified by Ennahar TV as a hostage, says, in heavily accented English, "We have prisoners. We have hostages with bombs … on the body."

In Arabic, El-Nigeri demands that 100 "comrades" who were arrested 15 years ago be released. "Our demands are so easy, so easy if you want to negotiate with us," says el Nigeri. "Either we get our brothers out or we die."

He says that some hostages are still living after the Algerian military's initial assault, but warns "we shall bomb them if the Algerian Army gets near to us. Now they are heading towards us, God willing."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Algeria Hostage Crisis: Seven Americans Escaped, One Dead, Fate of Two Uncertain

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The four-day hostage crisis at an Algerian natural gas plant has left at least one American dead, and the fate of two more is of growing concern, but seven Americans were among the dozens of Westerners who escaped unharmed.

The siege of the In Amenas facility ended Saturday, when the Algerian military's final assault retook the BP joint venture plant in the Sahara from the al Qaeda-linked terrorists who had raided it Wednesday morning.

The Algerian army killed all the terrorists, but not before they apparently executed the remaining hostages. Over the course of the siege, 23 hostages died, and Algerian officials fear the toll may go higher.

"For our people in Algeria, for their family and friends, this has been and continues to be a distressing and horrific time," said BP chief executive Bob Dudley.

The dead American was identified by the U.S. State Department as 58-year-old Fred Buttaccio of suburban Houston. The fate of two other Americans remains uncertain.

Survivors said the attackers focused only on Americans and Westerners, including a large British contingent.

Said British prime minister David Cameron, "Tragically, we now know that three British nationals have been killed and a further three are believed to be dead; and also a further British resident is also believed to be dead.

Most of the 100 or more Western workers who were at the facility when it was raided Wednesday were ultimately freed or escaped.

The Algerian military said it killed at least 32 of the terrorists, and displayed their bodies on Algerian TV.

Officials said the terrorists were heavily armed with automatic weapons and explosive-packed suicide belts and were preparing to blow up the natural gas facility.

In a statement, President Obama said, "Today, the thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the families of all those who were killed and injured in the terrorist attack in Algeria. The blame for this tragedy rests with the terrorists who carried it out, and the United States condemns their actions in the strongest possible terms. ... This attack is another reminder of the threat posed by al Qaeda and other violent extremist groups in North Africa.


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Leon Panetta: As Many as Eight Americans Held by Al Qaeda in Algeria

Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Algerian government has reportedly mounted a military operation to rescue dozens of hostages, including Americans, being held by an al Qaeda-affiliated group at a natural gas plant in Algeria.

According to British officials, a military counterterror operation is underway.  Reports that as many as 35 hostages and 15 Islamist militants at the facility in In Amenas have been killed during a helicopter raid have not been confirmed.  

According to an unconfirmed report by an African news outlet, the militants say seven hostages survived the attack, including two Americans.

In a statement, BP, a joint owner of the facility, said it had been told by both the British and Algerian governments that "the Algerian Army is attempting to take control of the In Amenas site."

"Sadly, there have been some reports of casualties but we are still lacking any confirmed or reliable information," said the statement.  "There are also reports of hostages being released or escaping."

Algeria troops had surrounded the compound in the Sahara desert, where hostages from the U.S., Algeria, Norway, Japan, France and other countries are being held by terrorists who claim to be part of Al Qaeda and are led by a one-eyed smuggler known as Mr. Marlboro.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told ABC News that as many as 100 hostages are being held, and that there may be seven or eight Americans among them.  The kidnappers have released a statement saying there are "more than 40 crusaders" held "including 7 Americans."

U.S. officials had previously confirmed to ABC News that there were at least three Americans held hostage at the natural gas facility jointly owned by BP, the Algerian national oil company and a Norwegian firm at In Amenas, Algeria.

"I want to assure the American people that the United States will take all necessary and proper steps that are required to deal with this situation," said Panetta.

The terror strike came without warning Wednesday morning when an estimated 20 gunmen first attacked a bus carrying workers escorted by two cars carrying security teams.

At least one worker was killed.  The terrorists moved on to the residential compound where they are now holed up with the American and other western hostages, including Norwegian, French, British and Japanese nationals.

There is growing concern Thursday morning about the fate of the hostages, and intelligence officials say the situation is tense.  Without the element of surprise, they say, a raid to free them will be very dangerous.

"They are expecting an attack and therefore, it's going to be very, very difficult for Algerian special forces to sneak in without being seen," said Richard Clarke, a former White House counter terrorism advisor and now an ABC News consultant.

Intelligence officials believe the attack was masterminded by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a rogue al Qaeda leader who also runs an African organized crime network that reportedly has made tens of millions of dollars in ransom from kidnappings and smuggling.  He is known as Mr. Marlboro because of his success smuggling diamonds, drugs and cigarettes.

Belmokhtar fought in Afghanistan alongside the mujahideen against the Soviets in the 1990s, and lost an eye.  He was formerly associated with al Qaeda's North African affiliate, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and was said to be a liaison with al Qaeda's international leadership.  

Belmokhtar split with AQIM late last year over what other Islamist militants considered his preference for lucre over jihad.  He remains affiliated with al Qaeda, however, heading a breakaway group that calls itself the "Signers with Blood Brigade" or the "Veiled Brigade."

According to a Canadian diplomat who was held hostage by Belmokhtar, Mr. Marlboro is "very, very cold, very businesslike."

Robert Fowler was a UN diplomat in Africa when he was kidnapped and held hostage by Belmokhtar for four months in 2009.

"I was afraid for my life all the time," recalled Fowler, "when I woke up in the morning and when I went to sleep at night.  He's a very serious player."  Fowler wrote a book about his ordeal called A Season in Hell.

Intelligence officials say the situation would be much easier if all the terrorists wanted was money.  But Belmokhtar's group says it will not release the hostages in Algeria until France stops its military action against the al Qaeda regime that has taken control of the northern sector of the neighboring country of Mali.

"We bear the Algerian and French government and the countries of the hostages' full responsibility in not speeding up the implementation of our demands [to stop] the aggressive assault on our people in Mali," said the group in its latest statement.

France says it will not negotiate with terrorists.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Iran Makes Rare Admission as Hostage Drama in Syria Continues

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran admitted for the first time since a busload of its nationals was abducted near Damascus, Syria last weekend that some on board were "retired members" of the elite Revolutionary Guard.

Tehran maintains that all 48 were Shiite pilgrims on their way to a shrine in Syria when they were taken hostage by a rebel group with ties to the Free Syrian Army.

The kidnappers contend that the bus was filled with current members of Iran's elite guard and that they were sent by Iran to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad put down the 18-month-long rebellion that has cost 20,000 lives, according to some estimates.

Three of the captives were alleged to have died during a government shelling in Damascus, the rebels said, and the rest were threatened with death if the attacks don't stop.

Iran has asked Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which all support the Syrian opposition, to intervene while continuing to hold the U.S. responsible for the safety of their nationals.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Five People Killed in German Hostage Drama

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BERLIN) -- Five people were shot dead Wednesday during a hostage standoff involving an apartment eviction in the German city of Karlsruhe, police said.  The dead include the 53-year-old suspected gunman.

Authorities say the drama began at an apartment complex when a locksmith, a bailiff and a person planning to move into an apartment were taken hostage by a man who was scheduled to be evicted.

Police say the man barricaded himself and his hostages inside a two-bedroom apartment with a large number of weapons, including what one witness said was a live hand grenade. 

An elite police unit finally stormed the apartment nearly three hours after the first shots were heard, and discovered four bodies, including the deceased gunman.  The fifth victim, the gunman’s partner, died of her wounds later at a hospital.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Somalia SEAL Rescue: American's Kidnapping Intentionally Kept Quiet

Poul Hagen Thisted (L) and Jessica Buchanan (R). Danish Refugee Council(NEW YORK) -- A friend of an aid worker rescued by Navy SEALs in Somalia said that it was important to keep the woman's three-month captivity quiet so her captors would not ask for more money and put her at further risk.

Jessica Buchanan, 32, and 60-year-old Dutch colleague Poul Hagen Thisted were rescued early Wednesday by SEAL Team 6 -- the same group involved in the mission to kill Osama bin Laden last spring -- in a daring mission at a remote encampment deep in northern Somalia.

Christina Scolforo, a close friend of Buchanan, says that her abduction was intentionally kept from the media.

"We didn't want them to get media hype that would cause them to think that she was worth more, and they would want more of a ransom, and then it would prolong the time that she was captive, so a lot of it was hush," Scolforo said.

Bachanan's immediate family is now meeting with her at a U.S. military base in Sicily, Italy, members of the woman's extended family told ABC News.

"She says she feels safe for the first time in 93 days. The men that risked their lives...I just can't say enough so I really, really appreciate it," Dave Buchanan, Jessica's uncle said.

Buchanan and Thisted, who worked with the Danish Refugee Council's Danish Demining Group, were abducted on Oct. 25, 2011 by a group of Somali bandits and held for ransom.

At approximately 1:40 a.m. Wednesday local time -- 5:40 p.m. Tuesday Eastern Time -- SEAL Team 6 was aboard a specially equipped C-130 moving rapidly towards where Buchanan and Thisted were being held.  One by one, the SEALs hurled themselves out of the plane, parachuting silently to within a few miles of the hideout, then hiking to the enemy encampment in pitch darkness, with armed pirates everywhere.

Within minutes of arriving at the target area, gunfire erupted from the kidnappers, but the SEALs quickly killed all nine of the heavily armed men.  By approximately 2:30 a.m. local time, the hostages -- now in U.S. hands -- were moved on board Black Hawk helicopters and headed for Djibouti.

In a statement Wednesday, Buchanan's family said they were, "very grateful that Jessica has been rescued.  This has been just an unbelievable answer to prayers and we are so grateful for the work of the president, the Navy SEALs and the State Department."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Navy SEALs Free American and Danish Hostages Held in Somalia

Danish Refugee Council(WASHINGTON) -- Two relief workers held hostage by kidnappers in northern Somalia since October were rescued Tuesday by Navy SEALs in a nightime raid.

One of the former captives was 32-year-old American Jessica Buchanan, who, with 60-year-old Poul Hagen Thisted from Denmark, worked for Danish Refugee Council.

The identities of their kidnappers is not yet known.  The abductors apparently had no ties to any organized Somali terrorist group.

A U.S. official told ABC News the SEALs parachuted from a plane into the area near the compound where the aid workers were being held.  A gunfight then ensued, and the SEALs were able to free both Buchanan and Thisted unharmed.  The hostages were then taken by helicopter to the U.S. military's Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.

All of the nine captors were killed, according to the U.S. military, and none of the SEALs were said to have been hurt during the rescue operation.

President Obama may have tipped off the successful outcome of the mission before he gave his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

As he entered the House chambers, Obama pointed to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and said, "Leon.  Good job tonight.  Good job tonight."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dozens Killed, Wounded During Hostage Standoff in Iraq

Antenna Audio, Inc./Getty Images(TIKRIT, Iraq) -- At least 56 people were killed and more than 95 wounded Tuesday during a hostage situation that turned into a five-hour standoff inside a government building in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit.

Authorities said that the carnage was the result of eight or nine armed militants dressed in police uniforms taking control of the building where the provincial council and other government offices are located.

It's believed that the militants began killing their hostages when Iraqi security forces launched an assault to retake the building.  At least two of the insurgents were wearing explosive vests that they reportedly detonated.

Police later said that the dead included three Salaheddin provincial council members, the chief of Salaheddin police and a local journalist.

One senior police member speculated that the hostage situation was a plot hatched by al Qaeda and that their militants were intending to assassinate all the provincial council members.  Some American soldiers who helped in the rescue operation received minor wounds.

Sunni-dominated Tikrit is the birthplace of late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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