Posts Tagged ‘Algeria’

U.S. citizens among hostages seized in Algeria as France battles Islamists in neighboring Mali

January 16, 2013

Washington Post
 Edward Cody, Debbi Wilgoren and Craig Whitlock,

PARIS — Islamist guerrillas seized a number of hostages, including Americans, in a brazen attack early Wednesday on a remote gas-production facility in Algeria, and the United States vowed to take all necessary steps to deal with what it called a “terrorist act.”

Algeria’s official news agency said two people were killed, including a British national, and six were wounded, two of them foreigners, in the attack by what authorities described as a homegrown Algerian terrorist group. There were conflicting accounts of the number of people taken hostage. The agency, Algerie Presse Service, said Algerian troops quickly surrounded the site.

In Rome, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said U.S. officials believe that Americans are among the hostages in Algeria but that they are still trying to determine how many.

“By all indications, this is a terrorist act,” he told reporters after meeting with Italian leaders Wednesday as part of a week-long European trip. “It is a very serious matter when Americans are taken hostage along with others…. I want to assure the American people that the United States will take all necessary and proper steps that are required to deal with this situation.”

Panetta said it remained unclear whether the hostage-takers are connected to al-Qaeda-affiliated groups that France is fighting in northern Mali.

“I do know that terrorists are terrorists, and terrorists take these kinds of actions,” he added. “We’ve witnessed their behavior in a number of occasions where they have total disregard for innocent men and women. This appears to be that kind of situation.”

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attack and said 41 hostages were seized, seven of them Americans.

However, Algerie Presse Service (APS) said “a little more than 20 foreign nationals” were captured. It said the hostages were from Norway, Britain, the United States, France and Japan. The captors released Algerian workers in small groups, the agency said.

The assailants arrived in three vehicles and first attacked a bus that was taking foreign workers from the gas-production facility to a local airport, APS said. One foreigner was killed in that attack, and the militants then took over part of the facility and seized hostages, it said.

Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia said the attackers were Algerian “terrorists” and vowed that authorities would not negotiate with them.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said the attack was in retaliation for Algeria’s decision to allow France to use its airspace to send warplanes to neighboring Mali, where French forces have been conducting airstrikes and support operations since last week to aid Malian troops in their battle against Islamist insurgents.

“Algeria’s participation in the war on the side of France betrays the blood of the Algerian martyrs who fell in the fight against the French occupation,” a spokesman for the Masked Brigade, an arm of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, told Mauritania’s Nouakchott News Agency.


BREAKING: 7 foreigners kidnapped in Algeria

January 16, 2013

The Independant
Jan 16, 2013

Islamist militants attacked a gas production field in southern Algeria today, kidnapping at least seven foreigners and killing a French national, local and company officials said.

An al-Qa’ida-linked group operating in the Sahara said it had carried out the raid on the In Amenas facility, Mauritania’s ANI news agency reported.

The field, located close to the border with Libya, is operated by a joint venture including BP, Norwegian oil firm Statoil and Algerian state company Sonatrach.

Five Japanese nationals working for the Japanese engineering firm JCG Corp were kidnapped as well as a French national, local officials said. An Irishman was also seized, the Irish government said.

A French national was killed in the attack, a local source said, but it was unclear if the victim was the same person who had been kidnapped.

The foreigners were taken from In Amenas in the morning. Algerian troops had mounted an operation to rescue the hostages and had also surrounded the workers’ camp at Tiguentourine, a local source said.

Algeria has allowed France to use its air space during its military intervention against al-Qa’ida-linked Islamist rebels in Mali, although officials have yet to make a link between today’s attack and the conflict in Algeria’s southern neighbour.

ANI, which has regular direct contact with Islamists, said that fighters under the command of Mokhtar Belmokhtar were holding the foreigners seized from the gas field.

Belmokhtar for years commanded al-Qa’ida fighters in the Sahara before setting up his own armed Islamist group late last year after an apparent fallout with other militant leaders.

BP confirmed there had been a “security incident” at the In Amenas field but could give no more details.

Statoil, a minority shareholder in the venture, said it was notified of the incident this morning but could not say if any of its fewer than 20 employees were affected.

Statoil described the incident as serious and called it an emergency situation.

BP said the field was approximately 825 miles from the capital, Algiers.

The five Japanese work for the engineering firm JGC Corporation, Jiji news agency reported, quoting company officials. JGC has a deal with Sonatrach-BP-Statoil Association for work in gas production at In Amenas.

In Tokyo, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said it was gathering information on the situation but could not comment. French Foreign Ministry officials also said they had no immediate comment and were trying to verify the reports.

BLIND LEADING THE BLIND: ‘False Flag Energy’ and Syrian Regime Change

October 14, 2012

Andrew McKillop
21st Century Wire
Guest Columnist

For the Libya war and regime change, things seemed straightforward: Libya is a big supplier of oil and gas to Europe.

Quickly replacing the Gaddafi regime was necessary, despite “the Colonel” being recycled back into grace with a Condoleeza Rice, Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi smile and handshake, only a few years before.

Once corporate penetration was underway, western central planners quickly replaced Gaddafi with a Shariah-proclaiming shaky government and its fundamentalist militias, who celebrated Sept 11th 2012 in a special way, by killing the US ambassador and staff in manner mirroring the demise of the late Colonel. But hydrocarbon supplies are vital!

On to Syria

Syria is a very minor exporter of oil (about 0.14 Mbd or 0.27% of world export supplies), with its exportable surplus on a slow downhill for more than 10 years. Kurdish separatists operating in and partly controlling eastern Syria have big plans to raise oil output, but their longstanding war with the el-Assad regime has blighted foreign drilling and related oil E&P activity. Most major oil investors (especially Canadian and Indian) have been tapering down their eastern Syria E&P for more than 3 years, since 2008-2009. Conventional gas resources are not large, mostly difficult access, and their development has been stunted by political and security concerns. Shale gas and shale oil potentials in Syria are however large, but like conventional gas resources are impossible to develop at present.

The country’s hydropower and water resource potential is also large, but any claim that Syria is a “resource-rich jewel” to be liberated, democratized and brought to market as soon as possible – but possibly not Libya-style – is way off the mark.

The nearest-term regional economic role for Syria is development of its agriculture potential, which has been attempted by the father-and-son el-Assad regime, since the 1980s but bad planning, execution and management, and endemic corruption inside the regime only resulted in Syria attaining exporter status in a major agrocommodity (wheat) for a few years in the 1990s. Since that time Syria has tilted back into food import dependence – exactly like Saudia Arabia and the Gulf states whose leaderships pretend to believe in Syria becoming “the Arab world’s bread basket”, under strict Sunnite rule, of course.

Energy resource or energy transport issues are unimportant players in this regime-change experiment, but in a recent Market Oracle posting on the supposed energy drivers behind regime change, William Engdahl writes: “Huge gas resource discoveries in Israel, in Qatar and in Syria combined with the emergence of the EU as the world’s potentially largest natural gas consumer, combine to create the seeds of the present geopolitical clash over the Assad regime”.

He continued: “Natural gas is rapidly becoming the “clean energy” of choice to replace coal and nuclear electric generation across the EU most especially since Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear after the Fukushima disaster. Gas is regarded as far more “environmentally friendly” in terms of its so-called “carbon footprint.”

Too Much Gas – Too Many Pipelines

Huge unconventional (deep offshore) gas reserves have been discovered, and proven or are in the process of being proven in the territorial waters of the following countries:
Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Cyprus, Azerbaijan.

Several other close-by countries are highly prospective, meaning likely also to possess very large reserves of deep offshore gas, called “stranded gas”. This only concerns local and regional, eastern Med and Caspian unconventional gas resource finds: worldwide finds are truly massive, and concern all continents. Any talk about world gas shortage, or control of gas resources by a small number of countries mostly hostile to the West has been exploded, since 2007-2009. This real world state of facts has yet to filter through to Think Tank strategists, deep in their bunkers mulling 1970s-vintage energy crisis issues with a Cold War mindset, in which War on Terror was as unknown as global stranded gas and shale gas resources and reserves.

As recently as 2008 and playing a major role in the setting of Europe’s climate-energy package of policies and programs basically seeking energy independence and energy security, the dark shadow of these Cold War-era energy crisis issues – now bolstered by Al Qaida shadows, played a major role in the European quest to reduce gas import dependence by any means. Increased dependence on Qatari gas, let alone Libyan, Algerian, Russian and Norwegian gas – Europe’s 4 largest pipeline gas suppliers –  featured nowhere in this 2008 plan, and was in fact the exact opposite of the plan’s published goals.

The basic reason for this, despite the energy security, geopolitical and terror war trimmings, is economic. Europe’s 4 largest pipeline gas suppliers, utilising an already overcapacity pipeline system feeding Europe, with zero need for pipeline capacity growth, operate “oil indexed prices” for gas. In simple terms this prices gas imports to Europe at up to $16 per million BTU, equivalent to oil at $92.80 a barrel. US gas prices this year have average about $2.50 per million BTU before a very recent “surprise comeback” to a little over $3.

Importing either Israeli gas (after 2020-2022 when the gas is developed) or Qatari gas through a hypothetical trans-Syria pipeline would have no interest at all to Europe, unless their offer price fell well below current prices operated by the 4 largest pipeline suppliers.

Possibly unknown to the deep-thinking Think Tank community, too often based in the US – the southern, south-eastern and eastern European regions are now criss-crossed with gas pipelines at a variety of stages: existing and operational; in construction; planned and in project. The major problem is not the transport capacity – but filling the lines at prices Europe is prepared to pay. Many pipeline projects are now on hold, not for geopolitical reasons, but because at the same time and rapidly, LNG re-gasification terminals are under construction in all coastal EU27 states. Rates of construction are so fast, despite high costs, that certain countries such as France will by 2015-2016 have sufficient LNG terminals to handle LNG imports covering entire national gas consumption needs. At the same time, gas pipeline capacity to northern and western Europe, including France, continues to grow.

World LNG supplies are on an unstoppable upward growth track, running at well over 20% per year, as LNG suppliers and potential suppliers also grow at an unstoppable rate. Under any hypothesis, LNG prices will be far below present European and Asia gas import prices and will surely and certainly force down global gas prices. Arab suppliers of LNG such as Qatar will have no dominance in the coming global LNG supply system and will be price-takers, due to the vast size of new stranded gas resources discovered and proven in countries such as Mozambique, Tanzania, west African states, Australia and Brazil, as well as the eastern Mediterranean “new gas” countries. Gas shortage does not exist.

Pipelines (and Gas) the World Doesn’t Need

Energy resource shortage in Europe is decreasingly on the menu, and hard to defend under any rational study of European regional, west Asian, MENA (Middle East and North Africa), African and world energy resource potentials. The former dominance of oil from Arab states, and gas from Russia was in any case the focus of European Commission and member state energy policies – with the target of diversifying energy sources and supply sources – since the 1960s and has continued and intensified ever since. The current supposed “CO2 based” clean energy policies of the Commission, enacted as energy law in the member states since June 2009 (but in no way cast in stone) only push the quest for energy independence further. These long-term policies, concerning gas, have been responsible for the massive growth of pipeline gas capacity to Europe – which is now accompanied by the massive growth of LNG import terminal capacity, to feed national based gas pipelines, all of which are interconnected in continental Europe.

Washington self-styled White Witch, Hillary Clinton, is working overtime to try and dislodge the Assad dynasty from power in Syria.

Related to the Syrian regime change experiment, or simply the grisly end of a Mafia-type Arab dictatorship, getting rid of el-Assad is in no rational way the signal for yet another, one more, high cost natural gas pipeline linking West Asia and Europe – this would certainly be one more underutilized or even useless pipeline! Taking overpriced Qatari gas, by pipeline, is for the least eccentric: Qatar is able to export LNG to Europe at high prices, already.

The real interest is to force Qatar to cut its prices – which will happen, however many football teams and luxury hotels the “western-friendly” Qataris can buy to curry favour with European political, media and corporate elites.

The claim that the only “realistic way” that EU governments, from Germany to France to Italy to Spain, will be able to meet EU mandated CO2 reduction targets by 2020 is a major shift to burning gas instead of coal, is also unreal on technical grounds. This claim ignores the complex realities of EU27 energy, and world energy – especially fast-evolving technology in power generation.

Heavily criticised by the Greens and Climate Crazies, Germany’s decision to build more coal-fired power plants takes no account of the Syrian situation, but pays plenty of attention to the fact that even if gas-fired power plants can reduce CO2 emissions by 50-60% over conventional coal-fired plants, they are distanced in CO2 reduction performance by new generation clean coal plants, like IGCC power plants developed and built, in Germany – by Siemens.

Replacing old coal-fired facilities with IGCC technologies can reduce Germany’s current coal power related CO2 emissions by 40 million tons per year for the same amount of power supply (about 46% of total German power supply). For the US, Siemens pitches “clean coal” as follows.

German hard coal resources, notably in the Ruhr basin, are now a highly politicised issue also confused by technology issues – especially concerning in situ underground gasification by fracking, extending to much greater depths than economically extractable “physical coal”. Even in IGCC power plants “physical coal” would emit as much, or more CO2 per unit kWh of electric power generated as gas-fired plants using gasified coal, making coal gasification a major focus of German energy R&D. Resource estimates for German remaining coal reserves range from as high as 75 to 100 billion tons coal equivalent, to less than 500 million tons, due to the politicised spin – very like the “imaginative” estimates of recoverable oil reserves in Arab countries of the Middle East, which always increase, on paper, at any time of geopolitical stress like the present.

Similar politicised and radical variations of coal reserve estimates apply to Poland’s USB, Ukraine’s Donbass and Russia’s western coalfields. Under any rational scenario however, these European coal resources could cover 350 – 500 years of current European and Russian coal needs.

The need for any kind of energy transported across Syria’s frontiers – either oil or gas – is zero in Europe.

We should ask here that Washington and London’s brain-trust take note then, and think about ceasing to promote a bankrupt drive to break yet another nation state – and for the wrong reasons, whilst risking wider regional instability through their own reckless efforts.



February 24, 2011

By Andrew McKillop
21st Century Wire
February 24, 2011

Today’s surging youth-led revolution in the Arab world has common points with the 1968 student’s revolt that rocked developed countries including the USA, France and several other European countries, with lasting sequels – of student and youth unrest – in Latin America, the then-USSR, Japan, developed countries in East and SE Asia, and even Africa during the 1960s and 1970s.


But the shared themes and common goals tend to stop there: today’s youth revolt has a planetary dimension, already moving out from the Arab world, and changing as it goes. The uprising, today, may be mostly of young persons but the goals and themes of this much more massive, probably world scale revolt are not only political, but also economic. In turn this likely makes them even more “impossible” than the euphoric hippy-oriented peace and love, anti-war, drug influenced alternate society dreams of the 1968 revolt in the rich world, that carefully ignored such boring old-style issues such as the economy.

A key slogan of the French 1968 student revolt summed this up:  “… be reasonable – demand the impossible”.

By an interesting time warp, Mouammar Gaddafi’s rise to power was under way in 1968 and was completed in 1969. This part-educated self-declared tribal ruler, himself drug-influenced, at first claimed to be reproducing the power grab of his supposed mentor, Nasser’s mid-rank army revolt in Egypt, and both of these models served elsewhere in Africa- for example in the bloody coup that gave sergeant Mobutu Sese Soko decades of corrupt power in the Congo. This he promptly renamed Zaire, like Gaddafi renamed Libya as the Arab Jamahiriya, but for any average citizen of these 3 countries little or nothing changed for the better and almost everything changed for the worse.

The antiquated other-worldliness of these flashback regimes takes us back to the postwar world of two competing superpowers in an abundant oil and other fossil-fuelled era of constant economic growth. The difference with today’s real world is massive and striking. With the fall of the dictator and mass killer Gaddafi, following hard on the heels of Tunisia’s and Egypt’s creaking leaderships being overthrown, a page of history is being rapidly turned, after decades of being frozen into deathlike inertia. But today’s world is vastly different from that of 1968, and the differences do not only include mass cellphone and Internet-based communications. Through 1968-2008 world population almost exactly doubled, adding 3 400 million people. If by some miracle of 1950s and 1960s style economic growth– as in China and India today, the world’s 3.4 billion population increment could consume oil at today’s OECD average of about 12 barrels per person each year, world oil demand would be about 90 million barrels a day more than present. In other words demand would be more than double today’s demand, needing roughly 50 or 60 “New Libyas” to make up the difference.

SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP: Libya was worth approximately 1.4 million barrels a day.

This immediately sets one parameter for the post-revolutionary world of the next 10 years or so, and generates one basic need:  learning what is possible to change, and eschewing economic growth dreams of the 1950s and 1960s variety, even if China and India are soldiering along that path. For delirious and malevolent dreamers like Gaddafi, and like the 1968 crop of student and alternate society leaders of the rich world, all and every economic detail was as uninteresting as it was unimportant.

In both cases there was however sufficient fat to trim, or existing wealth slopping around the system to permit these almost 18th century mindsets, more influenced by J-J Rousseau than by Nietzsche or Sartre– or effectively and in reality by Hitler and Mussolini in the case of Gaddafi. Both the type and kind of Flash Mob cellphone and Internet-based revolutions that are possible, today, will be heavily influenced by existing wealth, and the lack of it in affected countries- and as noted the current wave of revolutionary change is potentially global, exactly like the economy.


Another interesting flashback to the late 1960s and early 1970s is that period was marked by serious and recurring famine outbreaks which were solved by the one-time, once-only science and technology quick fix called the Green Revolution. Today’s GM crop hybrid “revolution” is far behind in its scope and potential for raising world food output, despite loud claims to the contrary, and for a battery of simple and basic reasons. These start with the fact, using FAO and other data, the world had an average of nearly 1 hectare of arable land per person in 1968, but today has less than 0.25 hectares per person.

THE GREEN REVOLUTION: Monsanto and GMO giants work to create global food markets for their products.

Food shortages- even famine, therefore has a short fuze today.  As the initially joyful Flash Mob youth rebellion in some countries (Tunisia is in fact the only one) are followed by increasingly bloody and lengthening struggles we can easily fear these will degenerate into, and generate, long civil wars. Prolonged breakdown of civil society is a sure and certain threat. During civil wars, all through history, famine is the common fellow rider able to further intensify the loss of life and trigger further, more bloody struggles and massive flows of refugees.

It is likely- but not certain, that this parameter is understood by leaders of the developed world, somewhat rocked and shocked by the rapidity and intensity of events in the Arab world since this new start of 2011. The non-ideological dimension is also troubling – so troubling that conspiracy theories are flocking to fill the void: obviously Iran is behind the Bahraini uprising, to inflict collateral damage on Saudi Arabia and deprive the west (and China, India and more than 100 other importer countries) of Saudi oil. Egypt’s uprising, when it is not the fruit of CIA and US Joint Chiefs of Staff plotting, is surely the result of Hamas infiltrating Egyptian youths’ minds using Facebook. Tunisia’s revolution was almost certainly remote-controlled by neighboring ex-Algerian islamic terrorists, when it was not the product of French socialist intellectuals and trade unionists. And so Western conventional wisdom goes. Gaddafi’s very welcome downfall poses problems for cobbling rosy conspiracy theories, but with time these will flourish. We might suggest his downfall could or might be linked to Wikileaks, like any other unexplained geopolitical event, inch’allah.

But in all cases of revolt in the Arab world no conspiracy theory can claim the objective is to deprive the world of food supply. Taking simply Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, these 4 countries import more than 45 percent of world total wheat export supply. As traders in their exuberant excesses of panic and euphoria reasoned, in their own way through February 21-23, any prolonged civil strife in the Arab food importer countries could crater demand, and therefore a rigorous sell-off was needed. To be sure, the long-only bets will be back in a few days. Much more important and more grave, the world is in a long-term process of depriving itself with food. Rebellion, revolt and revolution inside countries totally dependent on food imports is a dangerous signal not only for their citizens but for the world. The list of urgent measures in these countries – and in the huge number of countries outside the Arab world but like them heavily dependent on food imports – starts with the development of farming and food production. To date, this basic need is almost inaudible, along with other economic realities.


One sure cause or intensifier and accelerator of today’s Arab revolt is the twin – in fact interrelated – crises of not enough food and not enough jobs. To be sure, citizens listening to the high-flown delirium of a megalomaniac like Gaddafi, or a despot like Mubarak or Ahmedinejad of Iran will be less than thrilled by the ranting rhetoric, when they do not have enough to eat and their job outlook is close to zero. We can suggest that rising strains, and coming fractures in the world food production and supply system will initially be good for democracy but the best-before date on the packaging will be short. The massive rate of urban growth in the Arab world, both due to and causing rural and agricultural under-development, low productivity and poor paid jobs outside cities, is only an extreme version of the same general process in all developing and emerging countries. Inside the fast-growing cities of the entire world outside the OECD countries, which count for 15 percent of world population, the growing capital intensity of low paid manufacturing jobs, to play a humble export platform role in the global economy, also chokes off job growth.

Solving both these crises is the challenge for the world that arises from the ashes of the fossil regimes of the Arab world, in Africa and elsewhere, set in a moment of time that disappeared decades ago.

Returning again to their time, in the 1960s and 1970s, we can take a swift look at Mao’s failed but deadly rural development and regeneration revolution, and the extreme war crimes of the Khmer Rouge forced return to village living in Cambodia. Both these acts of criminal folly were failures. Their total body count was perhaps as high as 40 million – the same as the total death toll from World War 2. What is important and usually missed out in analyzing these sombre events is that both were either directly, or in major part driven by an attempt to solve chronic or acute food shortage – and create jobs.

We are currently offered a bizarre, even eccentric mix-and-match of supposed Green Growth, and intensified consumer society growth economy, by institutions and agencies such as World Bank, IMF, the UN development and economic agencies and some major private corporations. We might ironically think that the dreamers producing these concepts for the economic way ahead are working on a basis that if one fails the other could work, if God wills. The gravest problem is that neither can or will work due to these models being totally antinomic or exclusive. Case in point: at this moment in time, when the post-uprising civil societies of countries experiencing the Flash Mob youth revolt need support, advice, help and direction, the policy void in the OECD developed countries is a grave threat to recovery and sustained change in the world.

LES FLASH MOBS: Tunisian youth takes to the streets with calls for reform.


The rate of change since the start of January 2011 is high and may be growing, not weakening. The Arab revolt now means what it says: anti-regime movements now span almost the whole Arab world, from Morocco to Yemen, and can likely soon spill over and spread to African countries, Iran, Armenia, the Central Asian republics, and perhaps China. All the autocratic and unelected governments unable or unwilling to solve the basic issues of food and jobs will now suffer rising popular opposition and the risk of overthrow by mass uprising. By contagion, this movement could spread to the elected governments in many countries which are unwilling or unable to solve exactly the same challenges and can lose what remains of their own popular credibility and support.

Unlike the student revolts of 40 years ago, and totally unlike the rock-solid economic growth of the time, during les Trente Glorieuse, today’s weakened and fragile global economy is exposed to a host of challenges always bringing the economic issues closer to the surface. These as we said, start with the basic issues of failure to feed large chunks of humanity, or employ the youth of nearly all countries, whether rich or poor. Given the resource pinch, geopolitical climate change concerns, rising threats of major ecosystem collapse and heightened awareness of these economic constraints the way forward is both complex and difficult. This however does not mean we can avoid grasping the nettle: on the geopolitical front, endlessly avoiding the basic humanitarian need to eliminate toy-sized Hitlers (many of whom serve at the pleasure of Western powers) like Gaddafi- is returning home to roost. The coming storm of refugee, economic, security and energy problems for the whole Europe-North Africa region, and beyond, is a clear proof of this.

Exactly the same applies to meeting the nested challenges of feeding humanity and creating sustained employment within resource and ecological limits, that is within a set of sometimes clear – and often growing – constraints and limits. Time is short, and the heavy weight of avoided and ignored problems over several decades, the ultimate in laisser faire, shows that finally action is the only choice.


Andrew McKillop is guest writer for 21st Century Wire. He has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.