Algerian assault ends crisis, 7 hostages killed

INT

In a bloody finale, Algerian special forces stormed a natural gas field in the Sahara desert Saturday to end a standoff with Islamist extremists that left over 19 hostages and 29 militants dead since Wednesday. Dozens of foreign workers remain unaccounted for, leading to fears the toll could rise.

In the final assault, the remaining band of militants killed seven hostages before special forces killed 11 of the attackers, the state news agency said. It wasn't immediately possible to verify who killed the hostages.

With few details emerging from the remote site in eastern Algeria, it was unclear whether anyone was rescued in the final operation.

The siege at Ain Amenas transfixed the world after radical Islamists linked to al-Qaeda stormed the complex, which contained hundreds of plant workers from all over the world, and then held them hostage surrounded by the Algerian military and its attack helicopters for four tense days that were punctuated with gunbattles and dramatic tales of escape.

The military launched its assault to prevent a fire started by the extremists from engulfing the complex, the report said.

The seven hostages and 11 militants adds to the previous toll of 12 captives and 18 kidnappers, according to the government, but there are fears that the number of hostages killed is much higher and dozens of foreign workers from the Ain Amenas site remain unaccounted for.

Hostage horror

Standoffs that ended in significant bloodshed:

TEHRAN, 1980: A US special forces mission to rescue 53 American hostages from a bunker in Tehran, Iran, ended in failure and deaths of 8 servicemen.

WACO, 1993: A 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, ended with a fire. Nearly 80 people, including sect leader David Koresh, were killed.

MOSCOW, 2002: Russian counter-terrorism forces stormed a theatre where Chechen guerrillas were holding hundreds of people hostage. About 130 of the hostages were killed.

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