US wants clarity about attack in Algeria; FBI probe opened
The US government is working with the Algerians to get a more complete picture of how a four-day terrorist attack and hostage situation at a desert gas complex in Algeria unfolded, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday, dpa reported.
"We are in touch with the Algerians to try to gain a fuller understanding of what took place," Nuland said. The US wants to know how the terrorists were able to seize control of the facility and wants to understand the decisions that the Algerians made.
Nuland also said the FBI has opened an investigation into the attack in cooperation with Algerian officials and other relevant partners. An FBI spokesman told dpa the US is authorized to investigate terrorist acts against US nationals or US interests overseas, but he would not elaborate on the investigation in Algeria.
The attack at In Amenas gas complex left 37 foreigners, including three Americans and one Algerian worker dead, Nuland said. The attack began on Wednesday and ended Saturday when the Algerian army launched a final assault to free remaining captives.
Of 32 militants behind the attack, 29 were killed by the Algerian army and three were captured alive.
Britain and other nations have criticized Algeria's response, saying it was harsh and hasty, but the United States has not as of yet. Nuland said the situation was very fluid and the people on the ground had to make very difficult decisions.
She said the investigation was being coordinated with Algerian officials and other relevant partners.
The US recognizes that Algeria was dealing with "a ruthless terrorist operation," Nuland said. "It was obviously a complex attack, very difficult."
Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal on Monday blamed Islamist militants operating out of northern Mali for carrying out the attack. He defended the rescue attempt, saying when the security of the country is at stake "there is no possible discussion."
Nuland declined to provide details about the assistance the US offered to the Algerian government except to say that "we had open channels of communication among our terrorism experts all the way through."
A variety of nationals were among the dead, including French, British and Japanese. Not all have been identified, but Nuland said the US had no reason to believe there were more Americans among them.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the attack was another reminder of the threat posed by al-Qaeda and other extremist groups in North Africa. The US will remain vigilant against that threat and continue to work closely with all of its partners in the region to combat it, Carney said.