Cameron: Britain will hunt down hostage-takers
on 18/01/2013 11:33:36
"There is no justification for this hostage-taking and we will continue to do everything we can to hunt the people down who are responsible for this and other such terrorist outrages," he told MPs.
In a Commons statement he told MPs: "We were not informed of this in advance. I was told by the Algerian Prime Minister while it was taking place.
"He said that the terrorists had tried to flee, that they judged there to be an immediate threat to the lives of the hostages and had felt obliged to respond."
He added: "This is a large and complex site and they are still pursuing terrorists and possibly some of the hostages in other areas of the site.
"The Algerian Prime Minister has just told me this morning that they are now looking at all possible routes to resolving this crisis.
"Last night the number of British citizens at risk was less than 30. Thankfully, we now know that number has been quite significantly reduced."
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has condemned the militants behind the Algerian hostage crisis and warned them: "Those who would wantonly attack our country and our people will have no place to hide."
In a speech in central London, Mr Panetta vowed that the US government is "working around the clock to ensure the safe return of our citizens".
The former CIA chief said: "Even as we continue to try and gather better information about what is happening, let me make a few points.
"First, regardless of the motivation of the hostage takers, there is no justification, no justification, for the kidnapping and murder of innocent people, innocent people going about their daily lives.
"Second, we are working around the clock to ensure the safe return of our citizens and we will continue to be in close consultation with the Algerian government.
"And third, terrorists should be on notice that they will find no sanctuary, no refuge. Not in Algeria, not in North Africa, not anywhere.
"Those who would wantonly attack our country and our people will have no place to hide."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who is cutting short a visit to Australia, told Sky News: "This remains a fluid and evolving situation and many details are still unclear, but the responsibility for the tragic events of the last two days squarely rests with terrorists who chose to attack innocent workers, murdering some and holding others hostage.
"Our priority remains at the moment to identify exactly what has happened to each British national caught up in this incident and, indeed, to help other countries determine what has happened to their nationals."
The Algerian rescue effort was launched yesterday without consultation with other governments.
Mr Cameron was informed that it was under way when he telephoned his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmalek Sellal, yesterday morning despite having earlier asked to be kept fully updated.
Offers of British help had been declined.
Algerian communications minister Mohamed Said Belaid said the military operation succeeded in "neutralising a large number of terrorists and freeing a large number of hostages".
"But unfortunately, we are sorry to say, there were some deaths and injuries," he said.
A Belfast man caught up in the siege escaped the complex yesterday and made contact with his family to say he was safe and well.
Father-of-two Stephen McFaul, 36, from west Belfast, fled when the vehicle he had been travelling in crashed after coming under attack from Algerian forces. He was able to run off and make it to safety.
His 13-year-old son, Dylan, choked back tears as he declared he would give the electrician a "big hug" as soon as he sees him and never let him go overseas again.
"I am very happy, I just cannot wait for him to come home," he said.
The militant group believed to have carried out the raid on the gas plant said it was in retaliation for French military intervention against al Qaida-backed rebels in neighbouring Mali.
The drama began on Wednesday morning when heavily-armed militants launched a dawn raid, killing two people and injuring six others.
They claimed to have seized 41 foreign workers including Britons, Americans, Norwegians and Japanese.
A spokesman for the militants claimed that 35 hostages and 15 rebels were killed when Algerian helicopters strafed the site in yesterday's operation.
The militants - reportedly led by the veteran jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar - threatened previously to "eliminate" the hostages if they were attacked.