A heavily guard French Embassy is pictured in Tunis, January 18, 2013, in anticipation of protests against French military clashes with Islamist militants in Mali. French troops' initial clashes with Islamist militants in Mali have shown that the desert fighters are better trained and equipped than France had anticipated before last week's military intervention, French and other U.N. diplomats said. The seizure of dozens of hostages in neighboring Algeria, where Algerian troops launched a military operation to rescue the captives from "diehard" Islamist militants at a desert gas plant, also raises the possibility that Islamist violence could snowball beyond Mali's borders. (Photo : REUTERS/Anis Mili )
The terrorist group linked to Al Qaeda that took over a remote gas plant in Algeria is demanding the release of two terrorists in exchange for two American hostages. The two terrorists are being held in American prisons. The first, 74-year-old Egyptian Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, is the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center attack in New York City and is serving a life prison. The other is 40-year-old Pakistani Aafia Siddiqui who was sentenced to 86 years in prison for the assault and attempted murder of U.S. interrogators in Afghanistan in 2010.
The militants, who are part of an Islamic group called "Qatiba," or "Signers in Blood," plan to release a video detailing their demands.
On Thursday, the Algerian military conducted a raid which freed over 650 hostages at the gas facility--573 Algerians and 123 non-Algerians. However, about 60 foreign workers who were taken hostage by the Islamists still remain missing. The Algerian special forces also killed up to 20 of the hostage-takers.
The military is still working on reaching a "peaceful settlement" before "neutralizing" the terrorist group.
Earlier Friday morning, Reuters reported that a U.S. plane has landed in Algeria to pick up Americans in the desert at the gas site. The news agency also reported that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told security specialists in London, "Terrorists should be on notice that they will find no sanctuary, no refuge, not in Algeria, not in North Africa, not anywhere."
British Prime Minister David Cameron complained that Algeria did not inform Western forces or the U.K. of their planned attack.