Details of the long-term preparations for the murderous operation at the In Amenas BP plant are now coming to light, exposing the British intelligence hand.
The leader of the Jan. 16 commando assault on the Algerian gas facility, Mohamed-Lamine Bouchneb, had family connections to a trucking contractor for BP at the gas production site at In Amenas, and was therefore ideally suited to know the security and logistical layout of the facility, according to a report yesterday in the Algerian daily, Liberté. Bouchneb, killed during the abortive attempt to move the foreign hostages to Libya for what was to be a protracted hostage-release negotiation, was considered the business manager of the drug cartel smuggling networks from the Sahara to and through Libya for Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
Belmokhtar, who is linked to the al-Qaeda networks in Libya, is being promoted as the mastermind of the assault to make him the top dog among the Saharan narco traffickers, or as Liberté put it, "Emir of the Sahara," taking that role away from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim), from which he was expelled last November. A statement aired on the Mauritanian news outlet ANI, quoted Belmokhtar saying, "We in Al-Qaeda announce this blessed event."
According to the Liberté report, the owner of the trucking firm, Ghediri, is a brother of Abou Zeid, the head of Aqim, and former associate of Belmokhtar. Bouchneb got members of his family recruited to the Ghediri family trucking business, which was contracted by BP. The firm had a fleet of 30 tractor trailers, and had been active in In Amenas for at least three years. Since observers saw the attackers arrive on only three 4x4s, obviously the substantial arsenal (reported to have been obtained in Libya) of the attackers, and many of the attackers, were already on site. The number of attackers is estimated to have been about 40. The attackers were positioned to intercept a bus that was to take many of the foreign workers to an airport. The report indicated that BP had been alerted to this problem, but had done nothing about it.
BP has a sordid record of dealing with terrorists—as shown in their deals with the FARC in Colombia.
British Prime Minister Cameron, who initially scolded the Algerians for intervening against the narcoterrorists without getting permission from the British (who preferred a bloody, drawn-out hostage negotiation scenario), has now gone for the British fall-back option: He is quoted all over the British press today, warning that there will be a years-long war against the "al-Qaeda extremists."
"This is a global threat and it will require a global response," he said. "It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months."
An official Algerian communiqué after the plant was secured reported that 32 terrorists and 32 workers had been killed. But an AP release today reported that the toll has risen to 81, after Algerian security officials, searching the plant for explosives, mines, and booby traps, found more victims. They were so disfigured that officials could not immediately say which were attackers, and which were hostages slain by the kidnappers.