Algeria launched a “final assault” on a natural gas complex taken over by Islamist militants in order to save hostages trapped there for four days.
The assault effectively ended the crisis, but reports say it was not without additional loss of life.
The Japanese fear “very grave” news regarding the loss of life in the final assault. Multiple casualties are feared among the 10 Japanese citizens working at the plant, reports Yahoo! News.
Great Britain also fears that five of their nationals were killed. Algerian state media is reporting that there are 29 militants dead. They add that many of the hostages who remained were freed safely.
Media reports show at this time that at least 19 hostages have been killed during the entire ordeal, which began on Wednesday when al Qaeda-linked militants stormed the BP joint venture facility in the Algerian desert.
One American, Fred Buttaccio, has already been confirmed dead by the US State Department. Another American, Mark Cobb of Texas, has been confirmed as safe. He reportedly sent a text message to his family, saying ,”I’m alive.”
USA Today reports that four missing BP employees are likely dead. BP CEO Bob Dudley told reporters on Saturday:
“We have great fears we have likely suffered one or more fatalities. [For the families of the victims] this is a terrible and agonizing ordeal.”
An Interior Ministry statement says that 685 Algerian and 107 foreign workers were freed over the course of the hostage situation. Military personnel are still combing the facility for mines and explosives left behind by the militants, who apparently intended on blowing the facility up.
Dudley added that there may still be survivors hiding throughout the massive complex, making it difficult to pinpoint an exact death toll. The final assault by Algerian security forces likely leaves a total death toll of more than 55 people, including hostages and Islamist militants.