BP Plc Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley said four of 18 employees remain missing and some may have been killed after an al-Qaeda-linked group attacked a natural-gas plant in Algeria.
“While the situation has evolved, it may still be some time before we have the clarity we all desire,” Dudley said in an e-mailed statement from London today. “While not confirmed, tragically we have great fears that there may be one or more fatalities within this number.”
Algerian special forces today attacked the plant operated by BP, Statoil SAS of Norway and Algeria’s Sonatrach, killing 11 terrorists in a “final raid” on the complex, the state-run Algerian Press Service reported. Sixteen hostages were found alive, while seven were killed by the captors, who had set fire to part of the facility near In Amenas in the country’s southeastern desert.
The BP CEO, on a conference call with reporters, said the “highly secured” site employed workers from more than 25 countries, with a total workforce of as many as 700 people. He declined to disclose the nationalities or names of the 18 employees at In Amenas at the request of their families. He called the attack “an unprovoked, violent assault by heavily armed murderers.”
“We haven’t experienced an attack on any such facility on this scale before,” Dudley said. “We are reviewing security at our other operations in the region and around the world. There will undoubtedly be government investigations into the horrendous events and we will participate in them fully.”
The 14 BP employees have left the site and are “in a number of places, preparing for transport,” while some of them have already left the country, Dudley said. Two of them sustained non-life-threatening injuries, according to BP.
The Islamic militants struck Jan. 16, and about 30 attackers of various nationalities were involved, APS said, citing security sources.
The group, calling itself Al Mulathameen, had demanded that France end its military intervention in neighboring Mali, which began Jan. 11.
French ground troops advanced in Mali on Jan. 16 to engage Islamist fighters and ethnic Touareg separatists who have taken control of the north of the nation and were moving toward the capital, Bamako. France has a military force of 2,000 in Mali and the number may reach 2,500, the government in Paris said.
“Our focus remains on our colleagues who we have not yet been able to locate and on supporting their families through a time of agonizing uncertainty,” Dudley said in the statement. “BP is a company that cares about its people -- this is a difficult and sad time for all of us.”