Algeria hostage-takers aided by Libyan Islamists: source
TRIPOLI – Libyan Islamists provided logistical support to the militants who seized an Algeria gas plant before they were killed in a bloodbath which also left 37 foreigners dead, well-informed sources said.
"Logistical support was provided from Libya," a source close to extremist groups in Libya told AFP.
The source did not specify the exact nature of such aid but acknowledged that Libyan Islamists were responsible for establishing contacts between the captors and the media.
International media groups, including AFP, were able to get from Islamist circles based in eastern Libya telephone numbers of the kidnappers as they last Wednesday overran the In Amenas gas plant in the deep Algerian desert.
"There were no Libyans in the group which led the attack," the source said but recognized that there were "contacts" between the captors and Libyan jihadists.
The source also said that Libyan Islamists had no organizational link with the group, "Signatories in Blood", that led the four-day siege of the gas complex.
The group is led by one-eyed Mokhtar Belmokhtar, one of the founders of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM ). Belmokhtar left Al-Qaeda in October to create his own group.
Since the fall of the regime of Moamer Kadhafi in October 2011, Libyan Islamists have gained influence and inherited a large military arsenal from the conflict that ousted and killed the former Libyan strongman.
Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said on Monday the Islamist militants who carried out the attack on the gas plant had crossed from northern Mali.
He said they had planned the attack for nearly two months, much before France's intervention in northern Mali.
The militant group had said that their attack on the gas complex was in retaliation for French intervention in northern Mali.
Thirty-seven foreigners were killed in the attack on the remote gas plant, some of them executed with a bullet to the head, Sellal said.
He said that a total of 29 militants were also killed and three captured in the siege, which ended in a final showdown on Saturday after Algerian special forces stormed the sprawling gas complex.
Algeria has said its special forces managed to free 685 Algerian and 107 foreign hostages, most of them on Thursday, during their first rescue operation.
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