U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron canceled a speech on the European Union scheduled for tomorrow and said the country should prepare for more bad news in the Algeria hostage crisis.
One British citizen has already been confirmed dead after an al-Qaeda-linked group attacked and occupied a natural-gas complex operated by BP Plc, Statoil ASA of Norway and Algeria’s Sonatrach in the southern desert. Algerian security forces freed some foreigners as they fought the terrorists, causing an undetermined number of casualties, the state-run Algerian Press Service reported.
As many as half of the hostages were freed, according to the report, which didn’t provide a casualty toll. American, Norwegian, British and Malaysian nationals were among the hostages, who are numbered at 41 by the attackers and around 20 by the Algerian government.
“It is a fluid situation, it is ongoing, it is very uncertain, so I don’t want to say any more than that now,” Cameron said in broadcast comments today. “But I think that we should be prepared for the possibility of further bad news, very difficult news, in this extremely difficult situation.”
Algeria failed to inform the U.K. before starting the military operation, Cameron’s spokesman, Jean-Christophe Gray, said earlier. Cameron had asked his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmalek Sellal, to tell him before any action was taken.
Cameron had been due to make a speech on Britain’s future relationship with the EU in Amsterdam tomorrow, setting out how he planned to renegotiate powers and under what circumstances he would hold a referendum. No new date for the address has been announced.
The prime minister said officials from the COBRA emergency committee were working to build a picture of what was happening in Algeria and keep the families of the hostages informed about a “potentially very bad situation.”
Mauritania’s private ANI news agency earlier reported that 35 hostages and 15 abductors were killed in an aerial raid, citing an unidentified spokesman for the group.
The militant group, calling itself the “Signatories by Blood,” demanded that France end its military attacks in Mali, according to ANI.