OTTAWA Jan 24 Canadian police are in Algeria
looking for evidence that Canadian citizens were involved in
last week's attack and hostage-taking at a desert gas plant, a
government official said on Thursday.
Around 70 people died when Algerian troops stormed the plant
and ended the siege on Sunday. Algerian Prime Minister
Abdelmalek Sellal said a Canadian gunman, identified only as
"Chedad," had coordinated the operation.
"I can confirm that they are on the ground," the official
told Reuters when asked whether members of the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police were in Algeria.
The official declined to give more details. A spokeswoman
for the Mounties said she could not comment.
On Tuesday Canada said diplomats were in Algeria seeking
evidence that Canadians were involved.
One European official and one former senior European
counter-terrorism official said they understood there was
information confirming that at least one Canadian was among the
Ottawa says it has received no proof from Algerian
authorities that this was the case.
But the European sources said they did not believe the
initial Algerian claim that a Canadian may have served as leader
of the militants who took the hostages.
One of the European sources said multiple survivors of the
incident reported one of the militants spoke English with either
an English or North American accent.
European officials said it was highly unlikely that a
British person was among the attackers.
Canadians suspected of ties to North African Islamic
militants historically have come from French-speaking Quebec,
not from English-speaking Canadian provinces.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Mark Hosenball in
Washington; Editing by Xavier Briand)