Video shows leader of Algeria, Niger attacks

Reuters

By Patrick Markey

TUNIS (Reuters) - A video of militants who attacked Algeria's Amenas gas field and a French mine in Niger shows Islamist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar praising, briefing and training fighters for his group's operations in North Africa.

Belmokhtar, who has ties to al Qaeda's North Africa wing, has been blamed for masterminding the January attack in Algeria that killed up to 38 foreign workers and exposed the security risks facing a top energy supplier to Europe.

Last month Belmokhtar threatened to hit more French interests with the announcement his fighters would join forces with MUJWA, an Islamist group that was scattered by the French offensive on al Qaeda-tied rebels in Mali.

In the video, which was released on Monday by SITE monitoring service, Belmokhtar is seen discussing operations, training fighters and preparing the attack on a French uranium mine in Niger in May, alongside images of militants training for operations.

"You have to know you are going to fight those who were the reason behind the fall of Islamic rule," he tells fighters. "You will have a strong will and you will take revenge."

The video was released as discussions continue about the conditions for a return of foreign workers to the Amenas field, seven months after the attack on the site operated by BP, and Norway's Statoil with Algeria's state Sonatrach.

BP could return its workers to the Algerian field soon, the British ambassador in Algiers said on Sunday without giving further details, according to the Algerian state press service.

The British Embassy in Algeria said it would not comment further on the matter.

"We shall only re-deploy our expatriate employees in Algeria and will only support the re-delopyment of contractor personnel by the joint venture if and when we are satisfied with the safety and security conditions," a BP official said.

Another industry source familiar with the Amenas venture said a return of a first group of workers was not far off but there were still outstanding matters that needed to be resolved.

Talks continue between the oil companies and Algerian officials, who have said they have fulfilled all security demands and could not understand the hesitation of companies to return.

Forty Islamist fighters, armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, raided the plant near the Libyan border in January, demanding that France halt its offensive against Islamist rebels in neighboring Mali.

Algeria responded days later with a military operation to end the ensuing crisis. More than 60 people were killed, most of them foreign hostages. Workers from the United States, Britain, France, Japan, Norway and the Philippines were among the dead.

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