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Cameron and Europe: PM postpones long-awaited speech on EU strategy
5 years ago
Cameron and Europe: PM postpones long-awaited speech on EU strategy
Breaking news

David Cameron has postponed a long-awaited speech on the UK's relationship with Europe due to the on-going hostage situation in Algeria.

The British prime minister was expected to set out his vision for the UK's future role in the European Union, including the prospect of a referendum.

He described the situation in Algeria as "very uncertain and very fluid".

The Conservative leader had been under pressure from many of his MPs to give a binding commitment to a vote on Europe.

Algerian forces have moved against Islamic militants holding hostages at a gas facility in eastern Algeria, the state news agency reports.

Reports quoting militants said at least 34 hostages and 14 kidnappers died.

Militants also told Mauritania's ANI news agency that seven foreign hostages were still alive after the Algerian military raid.

Nearly 600 Algerian workers and four foreign hostages - two from Scotland, one from France and one from Kenya - were freed during the operation, APS reported.

Militants had earlier said they were holding 41 foreign nationals. They were believed to include British, Japanese, US and Norwegian citizens.

5 years ago
Live: Algeria hostage siege
Key Points
  • Algerian troops have moved in against a desert gas facility where Islamist gunmen have been holding foreign and local workers hostage.
  • It is now clear that some of the hostages were killed and wounded in the Algerian operation.
  • The Algerian government says the military operation is still going on.
  • Although Algeria says some hostages were freed, UK PM David Cameron warns of "further bad news".
  • Algeria has identified the gunmen as militants who follow Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a veteran Islamist with al-Qaeda links.
  • The gunmen have reportedly said their attack is a reaction to French military intervention in neighbouring Mali.

Algeria crisis: Warnings of 'multiple UK casualties'
5 years ago

Algeria crisis: Warnings of 'multiple UK casualties'

Related Stories

Officials are preparing for multiple British casualties in the Algerian hostage crisis, the BBC has learned.

David Cameron said the country should prepare for bad news after postponing a long-awaited speech on Europe.

Britons were among a group of foreign nationals taken hostage at a gas plant near In Amenas. One is confirmed dead, the fate of other hostages is unclear.

Four foreigners were freed but people died in an Algerian military operation, the state news agency reported.

The BBC's political editor, Nick Robinson, said Whitehall sources had said ministers were still awaiting information from the Algerian government on the number of British dead, injured and missing.

"It is feared that as yet unconfirmed reports of as many as 35 dead of all nationalities will prove to be correct," our correspondent said.

A Briton and Algerian were confirmed dead on Wednesday, after kidnappers entered the plant.

Mr Cameron earlier said the country faced "a very bad situation".

"A number of British citizens have been taken hostage. Already we know of one who has died.

"The Algerian armed forces have now attacked this compound. It is a very dangerous, a very uncertain, a very fluid situation and I think we have to prepare ourselves for the possibility of bad news ahead," he said.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague is to cut short a visit to Australia due to the hostage crisis, while ministers are planning to make a statement to Parliament on Friday morning to update MPs.

The BBC's deputy political editor, James Landale, said: "Officials say that the information coming out of Algeria remains incomplete.

"They say that the PM made the decision to postpone his speech in the Netherlands at tea time after a meeting of the emergency response committee Cobra and a phone call with the Algerian prime minister," our correspondent added.

Downing Street earlier said the prime minister had spoken to President Obama and they had agreed their priority was to establish the facts on the ground.

The PM was due to give a key-note speech to set out his vision for the UK's future role in the EU.

The Conservative leader had been due to give a speech in the Netherlands and was under pressure from many of his MPs to give a binding commitment to a refendum on Europe.

NI man freed

Algerian soldiers had been surrounding the facility near In Amenas that kidnappers occupied on Wednesday.

The Algerian communications minister said the operation "was successful in neutralising a large number of terrorists and freeing a large number of hostages".

"But unfortunately and we are sorry to say there were some deaths and injuries. We do not yet have a definitive figure."

Militants had said they were holding 41 foreign nationals.

The gas facility's part operator, BP, said earlier there were unconfirmed reports of casualties and of hostages being released or escaping.

Dylan McFaul: "I just can't wait to see him"

No 10 said Mr Cameron was not informed of the operation in advance and only learned of it when he phoned his Algerian counterpart at 11:00 GMT.

Earlier, the family of a Northern Irish hostage said he had been freed and was safe.

Stephen McFaul, 36, who was travelling on an Irish passport, was being held along with other foreign nationals.

His 13-year-old son, Dylan, has said he cannot wait to give his father "a big hug".

Another hostage is also reportedly from Northern Ireland. The MP, Ian Paisley jnr, says he was called to the Foreign Office for a briefing about a constituent, a man from north Antrim who was travelling on a British passport.

Meanwhile, the Algerian state media says that some hostages have escaped or been liberated, including two from Scotland, one from France and one from Kenya.

Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia said the kidnappers were Algerian and operating under orders from Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a senior commander of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) until late last year.

Algeria says military operation to free hostages 'over' / Update
5 years ago

Algeria says military operation to free hostages 'over'

Breaking news

The military operation to free workers held hostage at a desert gas plant is now over, Algerian state news reports.

Four foreigners were freed but a number of people were killed in the operation against Islamic militants, according to APS.

Although the major military operation is now over, the British government said it had been told the gas plant was still being searched.

Al-Qaeda-linked fighters occupied the facility near In Amenas on Wednesday.

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