DAVOS, Switzerland – Algeria’s foreign minister acknowledged that security forces made mistakes in a hostage crisis at a Saharan gas plant in which many foreign workers were killed by Algerian military strikes.
Mourad Medelci, in an Associated Press interview, also conceded that Algeria will need international help to better fight terrorism. Algeria’s decision to refuse foreign offers of aid in handling the crisis, and to send the military to fire on vehicles full of hostages, drew widespread international criticism.
The Jan. 16 attack, which an al-Qaida-affiliated organization has claimed responsibility for, sent scores of foreign energy workers fleeing across the desert for their lives. A four-day siege by Algerian forces on the complex left at least 37 hostages and 29 militants dead. Some of the fatalities were badly burned, making it difficult to identify them.
“We are in the process of assessing our mistakes. In that assessment we are leaning more towards establishing that the operation was a success,” Medelci told the AP at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Friday.
He said Algeria is likely to reinforce security measures at sites where multinationals operate in the oil- and gas-rich country. But he insisted that foreign workers in Algeria “will continue to work in Algeria and that is the best way to answer the terrorists.”
He defended the government’s decision to attack instead of negotiating. “Faced with such an attitude (of terrorism), it’s not just words that solve the problem. It’s action,” he said.
But he admitted that Algeria, which faced years of internal extremist violence, “can’t continue to face international terrorism alone. It absolutely needs support.”
He argued that Algeria wasn’t the target of the attack, but “they are targeting investors in Algeria and the foreigners who work there.”
AP correspondent Angela Charlton contributed from Davos.