Algerian terrorists bungled plan to blow up plant

The In Amenas plant that was targeted by terrorists. Picture: AP
The In Amenas plant that was targeted by terrorists. Picture: AP
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MILITANTS attempted to blow up the Algerian gas plant during the four-day hostage crisis in which two Scots died, it has emerged.

On Saturday, 19 January, hours before Algerian forces stormed the In Amenas plant, they parked a car, filled with explosives, under two gas towers at the centre of the plant.

Five hostages, including three Norwegians and two Americans, were placed above the car and died in the explosion.

However, it seems the militants underestimated how difficult it would be to blow the plant up.

Lotfi Benadouda, the Algerian plant executive who the militants singled out as the man in charge, told the New York Times: “They pushed me very hard to restart the plant. Their objective was to move the hostages to the plant.

“They wanted to get to the factory with the hostages, and explode it.”

New details have emerged of life inside the site after it was stormed by the al-Qaeda-linked terrorists. They wanted to turn it into a giant bomb which would kill everyone inside and decimate the surrounding area.

However, soon after arriving they inadvertently closed the plant down.

“The plant was shut down because the terrorists blew up the generators,” an unnamed employee said. “It wasn’t going to be started for a long time.”

The militants became increasingly frustrated and volatile as they struggled to blow up the plant, while Algerian forces began to surround the perimeter.

The workers risked their own lives by refusing to help them.

“We gave them vehicles and food, but we didn’t restart the plant,” Mr Benadouda said.

On the second day of the siege they filled five cars with hostages laden with explosives.

However, the army started firing inside the compound, wounding the militants’ leader. The militants panicked and hundreds of Algerian workers fled, Mr Benadouda said.

Two days later Algerian forces stormed the site.

Scots Kenneth Whiteside, 59, and Carson Bilsland, 46, were among six Britons killed.

Algerian prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal said 38 hostages, 37 of whom were foreign, died, along with 29 militants.