(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
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN