5 Arrested in Algeria Crisis; Death Toll at 81

Mali-based terrorist takes responsibility for attack
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 20, 2013 4:49 PM CST
5 Arrested in Algeria Crisis; Death Toll at 81
In this image made from video, a group of people believed to be hostages kneel in the sand with their hands in the air at an unknown location in Algeria.   (AP Photo/Ennahar TV)

Officials in Algeria have arrested five suspects in the Algerian gas-plant hostage crisis that left at least 81 people dead, report the BBC and AP. All five are members of an Islamist group, according to a private TV channel, and Algerian officials say each hailed from one of six different countries in Africa and the Arab world. A website in Mauritania claims that terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar is behind the attack, and recorded a video saying he would negotiate if operations were halted against Islamists in Mali.

The death toll climbed to 81 today as Algerian forces scoured the refinery for explosives—but many bodies were so disfigured that troops couldn't identify them as militants or hostages. The militants "decided to succeed in the operation as planned, to blow up the gas complex and kill all the hostages" when troops launched a final assault to end the four-day siege, said an Algerian official. (Read more Algeria stories.)

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