One American was killed during the ongoing Algerian hostage crisis, according to a statement by US officials on Friday.
The US continues to seek the release of Americans who are still being held by al Qaeda-linked terrorists on the third day of a standoff.
Fox News confirmed that the man, Frederick Buttaccio, from Texas, died of a heart attack during an Algerian military raid on the complex that was meant to end the standoff.
Mark Cobb, the complex’s general manager, was able to escape with members of his Algerian staff. He is safe. The crisis began when militants took over a natural gas complex in Algeria.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed Buttaccio’s death, saying:
“We can confirm the death of US citizen Frederick Buttaccio in the hostage situation in Algeria. We express our deepest condolences to his family and friends. Out of respect for the family’s privacy, we have no further comment.”
It is not yet clear if the man was the only American killed in the standoff. Algeria’s state news agency has reported that 12 hostages have been killed since the Algerian hostage crisis began on Wednesday. World leaders have criticized Algeria over how it is handling the attack. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, defended the Algerians, saying:
“Let’s not forget: This is an act of terror. The perpetrators are the terrorists. They are the ones who have assaulted this facility, have taken hostage Algerians and others from around the world as they were going about their daily business.”
CNN notes that, while one American was killed in the Algerian hostage crisis, six Americans were either freed or they escaped. Survivors of the ordeal recalled how they escaped. Some invented disguises while others sneaked to safety with locals. At least one ran for his life with plastic explosives strapped around his neck.
Other Americans are still unaccounted for and Nuland stated on Friday that there are still American hostages at the natural gas complex.
Algeria’s state-run news agency stated on Friday:
“The special forces … are still seeking a peaceful settlement before neutralizing the terrorist group currently entrenched in the refinery, and free a group of hostages who are still detained.”
The country’s special forces initially launched an offensive against the complex, which was criticized by some nations. They believed the offensive endangered the lives of the hostages. It is not yet clear how many hostages were seized initially by the Islamist militants. Thursday’s military raid ended with 650 hostages freed, while at least 12 were killed.
Eighteen of the militants were also “neutralized” during the attack. At least 30 foreign workers remain unaccounted for. The Islamist militants who invaded the complex called their operation a retaliation for France’s military intervention in Mali, which neighbors Algeria.