Algeria hostage crisis: Two Scots feared dead in desert hostage siege

The siege in the gas complex came to an end on Saturday
The siege in the gas complex came to an end on Saturday
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TWO Scots are among six Britons believed to have died in the bloody conclusion to the four-day Algeria hostage crisis, as Prime Minister David Cameron warned of a coming “decades-long” struggle against Islamist terrorism in Africa.

• Three British nationals and one British resident killed with a further three feared dead

• Algerian de-mining teams are combing the gas complex for explosive traps left by Islamic militants

• At least 23 hostages are said to have died along with 32 militants

Mr Cameron confirmed three Britons had died and three were missing believed dead after militants attacked the BP gas plant at In Amenas.

One UK resident was also among at least 23 hostages reported to have died.

The Foreign Office has not yet named any of the Britons killed.

Yesterday, First Minister Alex Salmond said: “We know that two Scots, or people with immediate Scottish family connections, are believed to have been killed. The two families concerned were informed by police. We will provide details as soon as we are satisfied the information is full and final.

“We know that eight Scottish survivors are all now back in the UK. While eight families can thankfully welcome home their loved ones, our thoughts must be with the families of those who may have been lost in Algeria.”

According to reports, Kenneth Whiteside, 59, originally from Glenrothes in Fife, who had moved to South Africa, and Barry Lawson, from St Andrews, were among those unaccounted for. But last night, finance secretary John Swinney revealed one of the unnamed Scottish victims lived in his constituency in Perthshire North.

BP said four of its employees from the joint venture gas plant were missing. In a statement, it said: “At the time of the attack there were 18 BP employees at In Amenas; 14 of them are safe and secure. Two of the 14 have sustained injuries, but these are not life-threatening.

“BP remains gravely concerned about four of its employees, who are missing. There is no further confirmed information regarding their status.”

Mr Cameron is expected to make a statement on the crisis in the House of Commons today.

He said the attack was a “stark reminder” of the continuing terrorist threat and vowed to use Britain’s chairmanship of the G8 to ensure that it was right at the top of the international agenda.

“This is a global threat and it will require a global response. It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months,” he said.

“It requires a response that is patient and painstaking, that is tough but also intelligent, but above all has an absolutely iron resolve and that is what we will deliver over these coming years.

“What we face is an extremist, Islamist, al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group. Just as we had to deal with that in Pakistan and in Afghanistan, so the world needs to come together to deal with this threat in North Africa.

“It is linked to al-Qaeda, it wants to destroy our way of life, it believes in killing as many people as it can.

“We need to work with others to defeat the terrorists and to close down the ungoverned spaces where they thrive with all the means that we have.”

Algerian bomb squads searching the remote desert complex for booby-trap devices left by the terrorists yesterday were said to have found 25 bodies.

Fears that the remaining militants had been about to blow up the whole plant was one of the reasons the Algerian authorities gave for launching the assault that ended the siege.

By the time it was over, 32 of the terrorists who took part in the initial raid were dead, according to the Algerian interior ministry. There were reports yesterday that five of them had been captured alive.

The veteran jihadist Moktar Belmoktar, who is believed to have masterminded the attack, sent a video to a Mauritania-based news website in which he claimed one of his cells, known as “Those Who Sign In Blood”, was responsible for the attack.

Foreign Secretary William Hague yesterday branded the militants “cold-blooded murderers” and said reports they had executed seven of their hostages before the final battle could well be true. “That sort of thing is quite likely to have happened,” he said.

An Algerian co-worker reportedly said he saw Mr Whiteside dying after being shot.

Mr Whiteside’s brother Robert, 66, said: “It is now just a waiting game and we are suffering badly. We are trying to keep a lid on our anger at the lack of information, but it is almost more than we can bear at times. The latest report from one of his colleagues has left us devastated.”

His nephew, Blair Whiteside, added: “Kenneth lives in South Africa, with his wife Catherine and their daughters, but they haven’t heard from him so far.”

Britain’s ambassador to Algiers, Martyn Roper, was yesterday returning to In Amenas to co-ordinate the efforts to establish what had happened to the three missing Britons.

Despite the heavy loss of life, Mr Cameron refused to criticise the tactics of the Algerian government which ruled out any negotiation with the terrorists.

“The responsibility for these deaths lies squarely with the terrorists who launched these vicious and cowardly attacks,” Mr Cameron said.

“When you are dealing with a terrorist incident on this scale with up to 30 terrorists, it is extremely difficult to respond and get this right in every respect. We should recognise all the Algerians have done to work with us and to help us, and I would like to thank them for that.”

The Algerian interior ministry said the troops had no choice but to intervene. “The army’s special forces launched an intervention to neutralise the terrorist groups that were first trying to flee with the hostages and then blow up the gas facilities,” it said in a statement.

Belmoktar had initially claimed the attack was in retaliation for the French military intervention in Mali.

It was later reported that they were demanding the release of two terrorists held in the US.