Algerian gas plant was targeted for blast

Feb. 3, 2013 at 10:32 AM
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ALGIERS, Algeria, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- A band of Islamic militants who seized a remote Algerian natural gas plant were bent on destroying the facility, survivors said.

Employees who escaped last month's siege told The New York Times their captors were adamant about re-starting the desert processing plant and using the volatile fuel in the system to blow up the entire plant and create a fireball that would kill everyone in the complex.

"They pushed me very hard to restart the plant," said plant executive Lotfi Benadouda. "Their objective was to move the hostages to the plant. They wanted to get to the factory with the hostages, and explode it."

Benadouda was senior enough to be considered the man in charge of the plant by the militants, The Times said. He and his colleagues did their best to stall the invaders in early hours of what became a siege that lasted nearly a week.

"We gave them vehicles and food, but we didn't restart the plant," Mr. Benadouda said.

The Times said the takeover was ended by Algerian forces when the militants loaded all of the foreign hostages into five trucks wired with explosives. New information from Algerian officials indicated at least three of the trucks were blown up by the militants, not by inadvertent fire from the Algerian troops.

Nearly 40 foreign hostages and 29 kidnappers were killed in the assault along with an unspecified number of Algerians.

The odds of the militants actually blowing up the plant were debatable. Witnesses indicated the attackers were not entirely sure how the plant was laid out, and industry experts said it would be difficult to ignite escaping gas unless it was inside a closed space where it would not dissipate.

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