RCMP names Canadian believed 'clear leader' in Algerian hostage-taking

Sept. 19, 2013 at 1:42 PM
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TORONTO, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- A Canadian citizen could be the militant a Norwegian oil firm called a "clear leader" in the January attack on an Algerian gas plant, officials said in Ottawa.

Ali Medlej, a native of Lebanon, is believed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to be the person alluded to in a report released earlier this week by Statoil, one of the operators of the Algerian gas processing facility, the Toronto Star reported Thursday.

Medlej, 24, was among 29 militants who took hostages in a raid on the Arenas facility and later died in a counter-assault by the Algerian military.

Afterward, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellai said a Canadian was "coordinating the attack."

The Statoil report, based on its own six-month investigation, didn't confirm Sellai's assertion, stating only that a Canadian was one of the "clear leaders" of the attack.

Statoil found the attack was not conducted solely by an al-Qaida splinter group led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, but also was joined by a southern Algerian rebel group known as the "Sons of the Sahara for Islamic Justice."

Some 40 plant workers held hostage were killed in the aftermath of the raid.

The RCMP says it is continuing to investigate the role of Canadians in the attack.

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