(WASHINGTON) — Two Americans whose fate was a mystery following the Algerian hostage crisis have been identified among the dead, according to the State Department.
Victor Lynn Lovelady and Gordon Lee Rowan join Fred Buttaccio, who was previously identified, as the U.S. nationals killed after al Qaeda linked militants stormed a BP joint-venture facility in the eastern Algerian desert last week. Seven Americans managed to escape.
Algeria’s prime minister, Abdelmalek Sellal, said Monday that in all, 37 hostages from several countries died and 29 hostage-takers were killed when the Algerian military forced a bloody end to the crisis Saturday. Three other hostage-takers were taken into custody, he said.
Late Sunday a video emerged that was reportedly shot after the takeover in which the leader of the terrorists, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, claimed the “blessed” operation on behalf of 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.
On Monday, new footage apparently shot inside the compound during the crisis aired on Algerian state television, showing hostages sitting in groups on the ground in the fenced-off desert facility. The video captures a snippet of the negotiation apparently between the Algerian military and a hostage-taker who threatens to begin murdering the workers. The video then cuts to the aftermath of the military raid, showing hostages being released, destroyed vehicles and a few shots of dead men that the station identified as terrorists.
In an interview with ABC News Sunday, Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the U.S. knew that “something big” was coming before the attack, but didn’t have enough details to stop 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,'” Rogers told ABC News 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.”
Robert Whiteside, the brother of British citizen Kenneth Whiteside who was reportedly killed in the attack, said his brother was executed with other hostages when the Algerian military launched its first operation against the terrorists.
“They just lined up four and shot them,” Robert Whiteside said, according to the Scottish news network STV. “Why? I don’t know. But that’s what they did.”
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.”
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