ALGIERS Jan 17 Algeria's government spokesman
confirmed some hostages were killed in a continuing military
operation at a desert gas plant on Thursday but said troops had
been forced to act to free them due to the "diehard" attitude of
In the first official comments by the government on the
day's events, Communication Minister Mohamed Said was quoted as
telling state news agency APS that many militants had been
killed and that efforts to free foreign hostages were going on.
He acknowledged there had been "several deaths and injuries"
among the hostages, but insisted Algeria, which fought a bloody
war against Islamists through the 1990s, would not negotiate.
"We say that in the face of terrorism, yesterday as today as
tomorrow, there will be no negotiation, no blackmail, no respite
in the struggle against terrorism," APS quoted Said as saying.
Adding that Algerian forces had done all they could to
ensure the hostages' survival and bring the siege to a
successful conclusion, he blamed "the diehard attitude of the
terrorists" for forcing the military to launch its operation.
Western leaders whose citizens are among the hostages,
including British Prime Minister David Cameron, said they were
told of the assault only after it started. He told Britons to
prepare for "bad news" and an aide said Cameron would have
preferred to have been consulted before the raid began.
Said said the militants' goals had been to destabilise
Algeria and draw it in to the civil war in Mali.
The guerrillas had demanded that France stop its offensive
against Mali's Islamist rebels and that Algerian withdraw its
cooperation with the French operation.